|21.04.2011, 11:20||◄ last page|
World Champion Nikola Karabatic rates Montpellier’s chances to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 against Rhein Neckar Löwen.
Karabatic: "Titles are my fuel"
After unexpectedly hard struggling against the Swiss team of Kadetten Schaffhausen in the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League, Montpellier AHB managed to qualify for the Quarterfinals.
There the French Champion will face the team that entered the competition by winning the "Wild Card Tournament", Rhein Neckar Löwen from Germany.
MAHB top star Nikola Karabatic expects two tough and close matches. But hopes of the two times EHF Champions League winner are high to reach their dream destination - the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne in the end of May.
ehfCL.com: Mission impossible or mission possible – how would you classify the Rhein Neckar Löwen?
Nikola Karabatic: When you have come quite far in a competition like the VELUX EHF Champions League there are simply no easy opponents left. Already before the draw of the Quarterfinals it was clear that we would meet a top team.
Maybe Flensburg would have been a little bit easier to play against as they suffer from a series of injured players. Anyway, all remaining teams I would rate on an equal performance level.
Löwen are currently in a very good form after beating THW Kiel in Kiel. Maybe they lack some experience in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but they are still as strong as for example Hamburg or Barcelona.
ehfCL.com: Which team is the favourite – Montpellier or Löwen?
Nikola Karabatic: Actually Löwen have the better team compared to ours. They have more player alternatives on the bench, who are individually better than our bench. Maybe our advantage is that we have the return match on home ground. So in my opinion the chances are 50:50.
ehfCL.com: Talking about the return match – which role does the new arena in Montpellier play for your team’s performance?
Nikola Karabatic: The new hall is brilliant, like the big arenas in Germany regarding size and atmosphere. This arena is an impetus for our team and for the French handball world. It is a great feeling to have this atmosphere.
ehfCL.com: Last season Montpellier missed the VELUX EHF FINAL4 by only one goal against Chekhovskie Medvedi, you were injured. Is Montpellier able to reach the final destination Cologne in this season?
Nikola Karabatic: This is our major objective we have been working hard for it the whole season. We want to go to Cologne! Our team is better than last season.
Especially in difficult away matches against key opponents we could prove our strength, like with our victory in Hamburg or the close defeat in Veszprem. At home we are traditionally strong. So I hope this will be enough to beat the Löwen and to go to Cologne.
ehfCL.com: Do you see your team as a candidate for winning the VELUX EHF Champions League?
Nikola Karabatic: It is hard to say. Ciudad Real, Barcelona, Kiel and Hamburg have better squads –looking only at that we are not favourites. But we can beat any opponent if we play with a full squad.
In case we qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, our playing system could be on our side. That weekend there will only be one match to decide, compared to the knock-out stage where we play two legs.
With two games it could be hard for us to win the title. But I say that if we reach Cologne, everything could happen. First we need to qualify.
ehfCL.com: World Champion, Olympic gold medallist, European Champion, EHF Champions League winner – you have won every major title a handball player can win. How do you still motivate for more?
Nikola Karabatic: There’s a difference between a good sportsman and the best sportsman. The good ones are satisfied at a certain moment, the best ones are always hungry for every title, to win every match, to hold every trophy in hands. This is my motivation. I always want to win!
I like to experience the joy over won titles as often as possible. I’m lucky to play for Montpellier and France so I still have chances to win more titles. This is my fuel.
ehfCL.com: Having a brief look on your former club, how do you see THW Kiel’s chances to return to Cologne and to defend their title?
Nikola Karabatic: They also have to face a top opponent with F.C. Barcelona Borges. I am sure we will see very close matches in that duel, too. If Kiel reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 again, they will play on home grounds. That will make them favourites thanks to the atmosphere and their experienced and hungry players like Jicha, Narcisse, Omeyer, Zeitz and Ahlm.
ehfCL.com: So you dream of a final between Montpellier and Kiel?
Nikola Karabatic: Absolutely! If I could subscribe for that final, I would do it immediately. We will do all we can to get to such a final.
TEXT: Björn Pazen