Champions League - second leg

Nearly 5 months has passed since the first round of the Champion’s League took place at the Swedish Open in Malmo, but in fairer, warmer weather, round 2 is fast approaching at the German Open on Friday 28th July, with the final matches in the afternoon of Saturday 29th July.  To whet your appetite and refresh your mind here is a review of the first round and a preview of what is to come in Nussloch.

 

 

Round 1 Review – iPro London Pegged Back, with Quite A Chasing Pack

With four singles rubbers and a brace of doubles rubbers in each tie, there are a staggering 264 points up for grabs in a Champion’s League fixture.  Teams were awarded 2 points for the victory, with a winning bonus point if a team won by more than 40 points and a losing bonus point if defeat was by less than 20 points.  Our 8 sides were split into two groups, with iPro London, Helsinki Hawks, Three Percent Malta Magic and Technifibre Copenhagen in one grouping and KoR Oudenaarde, Swiss Army Knives, Berghain Berlin Boasters and Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria in the second, (groupings that had been determined in a draw performed by Daryl Selby!).  Each team played their fellow group members as their opening three fixtures in the Champions League. 

Amongst both an “expert” panel and their fellow captains, iPro London and KoR Oudenaarde were installed as the pre-event favourites, but both sides stumbled on the opening day as no side went unbeaten in Sweden.  iPro London started out with a thumping bonus point wins over the Helsinki Hawks and Technifibre Copenhagen, however they came unstuck against Three Percent Malta Magic going down to a 4 point defeat.  With Copenhagen defeating Malta, the first grouping saw three sides finished with two wins and a defeat.  Only Helsinki went without a victory.  In the second group, joint favourites, KoR Oudenaarde were also similarly unable to remain undefeated, having edged out both the Swiss Army Knives and Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria in their opening ties, they looked ready to pounce on the inability of London, Copenhagen or Malta to dominate in the other group, however they came undone against the Bergain Berlin Boasters suffering a 17 point defeat.  With the Swiss Army Knives defeating Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria, who had opened their account with victory over Berlin, the final table for the weekend simply highlighted how close the whole event is.  In addition to defeating each other, the manner of the victories was telling, off the 12 matches played, there were just 4 winning bonus points earned, however 6 losing bonus points were earned. 

Therefore as we head to Nussloch, iPro London top the table, however with three points (a bonus point victory) covering first to sixth and four matches to be played, it feels impossible to write off any side at the halfway stage. 

 

Team

Matches Played

Wins

Points Difference

TOTAL POINTS

1.

iPro London

3

2

+107

7

2.

Technifibre Copenhagen

3

2

+41

6

3.

King of Rackets

3

2

-2

5

4.

Swiss Army Knives

3

1

+12

4

5.

Berlin Berghain Boasters

3

2

+4

4

6.

Three Percent Malta Magic

3

2

-34

4

7.

Klosterneuburg Austria

3

1

-14

3

8.

Helsinki Hawks

3

0

-114

1

 

Captain’s Review

 

iPro London – 1st – 7 points

Squad Changes - Out: Emil Gunnarsson, Luke Penttinen. In: Christian Wiessner, Pieter De Bleeckere
Squad in Germany: Duncan Stahl (c), Natalie Paul, Christian Wiessner, Pieter De Bleeckere.
Fixtures (Friday 28th July unless stated, all times CEST): KoR Oudenaarde (10:45), Berghain Berlin Boasters (14:30), Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria (19:00), Swiss Army Knives (Saturday 17:30)

While somewhat perturbed by the defeat to Malta (who had beaten Copenhagen, a team London had dispatched with ease), captain Duncan Stahl was left pretty pleased with results in Sweden.  Heading to Germany, Duncan feels that London remain at a similar strength with their replacement players complementing those departing the squad.  However, he acknowledges that being first and staying first are two very different situations, particularly with respect to the bonus points which have made it “very interesting”.  Duncan remains confident and while acknowledging that the London results show how difficult Racketlon results can be to predict, that London can claim the title, with KoR second and Berlin in third. 

 

Technifibre Copenhagen – 2nd – 6 points

Squad Changes - Out: Loic Cencig, Julie Irby Norregaard. In: Mark Harris
Squad in Germany: Morten Jaksland (c), Zuzana Severinova, Patrick Lorenz, Mark Harris.
Fixtures: Berghain Berlin Boasters (10:00), Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria (14:30), Swiss Army Knives (19:45), KoR Oudenaarde (Saturday 17:30).

Captain Morten Jaksland was delighted with the potential his squad showed with their bonus point victories over Helsinki and Malta, before being left somewhat baffled by the final match against London.  Morten left only to query whether the schedule worked against them, with three team matches in a day asking a lot of his squad.  Looking ahead to Germany, Morten waves goodbye to their “bombastic Frenchman” Loic Cencig, but he is pleased with the incoming Mark Harris, the Brit bringing strength to their badminton and in particular, to their potential doubles pairings, which Morten identifies as crucial in this team format.  Morten expects things to change in the standings in Germany, although he still expects London to win overall, he is quietly confident that Copenhagen can stay near the top, despite all the strong competition. 

 

KoR Oudenaarde – 3rd – 5 points

Squad Changes - Out: Michael Strassle/Roland Pichler. In: Paul Sach, Joerg Kanonenberg.
Squad in Germany: Lieselot de Bleeckere (c), Jesper Hougaard, Paul Sach, Joerg Kanonenberg, Michael Moitzi.
Fixtures: iPro Sports London (10:45), Helsinki Hawks (15:15), Three Percent Malta Magic (19:45), Technifibre Copenhagen (Saturday 17:30).

Tagged early as a team to watch, it was an unfortunate start for KoR as Michael Strassle was lost early to injury, with Roland Pichler stepping in as an injury replacement.  However, captain Lieselot de Bleeckere was overall pretty pleased with her teams performance in Sweden.  Lieselot feels that they will be a stronger unit as they head to Germany, however there is the pressure of facing the currently top ranked teams (London and Copenhagen), in what could be seen as title deciding matches for all three sides.  Of course, the London match comes with the additional needle, as Lieselot comes up against brother Pieter in the London squad, when she declares that “I really have to beat my brother and the London team”.  Away from the sibling rivalry, Lieselot has faith in her team and she predicts nothing but a victory for the KoR in the Champions League 2017. 

 

Swiss Army Knives – 4th – 4 points

Squad Changes - Out: Nicole Eisler, Emanuel Schopf (injury), Mikael Rehn, Niclas Larsson (injury). In: Astrid Reimer-Kern, Korbinian Heim (sub), Ray Jordan (sub).
Squad in Germany: Astrid Reimer-Kern (c), Alex Du Noyer, Steffan Neumann, Korbinian Heim, Ray Jordan.
Fixtures: Helsinki Hawks (10:45), Three Percent Malta Magic (15:15), Technifibre Copenhagen (19:45), iPro Sports London (Saturday 17:30).

The Swiss Army Knives head the chasing pack, the first of three teams currently on four points, for the Knives thanks to two losing bonus points.  With Sweden skipper, Nicole Eisler unavailable for the Germany leg, she hands the leadership of the team over to friend, Astrid Reimer-Kern.  Nicole was left very happy with the way it all turned out in Sweden, in particular the team spirit that was on display, which contributed to the team exceeding her predictions.  Looking ahead to Germany it is a blow for the Knives to lose both Niclas Larsson and Emanuel Schopf to injury, but they have had two substitutes approved by the Champions League panel in the form of Korbinian Heim and Ray Jordan.  Overall, Nicole remains positive especially because “we have Astrid Reimer-Kern”, showing her faith in her personal replacement.  The aim for these ladies is to challenge for a final podium place, and they have confidence after their unexpected results in Sweden. 

 

Berlin Bergain Boasters – 5th – 4 points

Squad Changes - Out: Anders Rikan, Mikkel Brenoe-Jensen. In: Luke Barnes, Thorsten Lentfer.
Squad in Germany: Amke Fischer (c), Luke Barnes, Thorsten Lentfer, Jack Bishop.
Fixtures: Technifibre Copenhagen (10:00), iPro Sports London (14:30), Helsinki Hawks (19:00), Three Percent Malta Magic (Saturday - 16:45).

Triple B’s captain Amke Fischer is keeping her cards close to her chest, although she was willing to reveal that she was quite happy with her Berlin team’s achievements in Sweden.  She is predicting a close finish to the Champion’s League and while she ‘claims’ she would be happy with a top half finish she has left a veiled threat to her fellow teams that “Berlin are going to be even stronger in Nussloch, so their opponents had better look out”.  Can the German side seal the first new format Champion’s League title on home soil?

 

Three Percent Malta Magic – 6th – 4 points

Squad Changes - Out: Sebastian Hedlund. In: Anastasiya Bruzgina
Squad in Germany: Kresten Hougaard (c), Alistair Prades, Piers Boden, Svenja Kleb, Anastasiya Bruzgina.
Fixtures: Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria (10:00), Swiss Army Knives (15:15), KoR Oudenaarde (19:45), Berghain Berlin Boasters (Saturday 16:45).

Captain Kresten Hougaard enjoyed the first experience of the new format Champions League in Sweden, but (surprisingly) feels that Malta struggled a little, despite their solid win over Helsinki and their quite astonishing victory over London.  Kresten quickly concedes that the loss of Sebastian Hedlund from the team makes their task harder in Nussloch, however he is pleased to strengthen his women’s options with the arrival of Ana Bruzgina.  No matter what side they face Kresten promises that Malta will be “fighting for every single point on offer”.  He fully expects iPro London to go undefeated in the second round and be crowned the 2017 Champions. 

 

Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria – 7th – 3 points

Squad Changes - Out: Lillian Druve. In: Benjamin Hampl, Martina Meissl.
Squad in Germany: Lukas Windischberger (c), Hans Sherpa, Benjamin Hampl, Martina Meissl, Hans Van Daele.
Fixtures: Three Percent Malta Magic (10:00), Technifibre Copenhagen (14:35), iPro Sports London (19:00), Helsinki Hawks (Saturday 16:45).

For Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria captain, Lukas Windischberger it was a chastening opening round in Sweden.  After a solid opening round victory, his team tired and suffered two further defeats, something which Lukas pins on the make-up of his squad in Sweden.  “Having just three male players isn’t good for three hard fought team matches”.  Heading to Nussloch, Lukas is able to resolve this problem as he is able to call on top Swiss player, Benny Hampl, giving Lukas more options for his team make up and as a result, he is targeting a third place finish for his team, while expecting London to go all the way. 

 

Helsinki Hawks – 8th – 1 points

Squad Changes – Out: None. In: Cedric Junillon, Silke Altmann
Squad in Germany: Marko Valimakl (c), Dan Busby, Margaux Randjbar, Cedric Junillon, Silke Altmann, James Watkins.
Fixtures: Swiss Army Knives (10:45), KoR Oudenaarde (15:15), Berghain Berlin Boasters (19:00), Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria (Saturday 16:45).

It was a chastening experience in Sweden for the Helsinki Hawks and their captain Marko Valimakl, especially with the early injury suffered by Margaux Randjbar, who battled on bravely despite it.  Marko however was keen to address the positives that came from the experience, with a focus on the experiences gained in these matches for Helsinki as a team.  With no wins registered in Sweden, Helsinki will be desperate to get that first win under their belt and with the addition of Cedric Junillon and Silke Altmann to the squad in Nussloch, Marko is confident that their strengthen squad will win a few in Germany.  With regards to an overall winner, Marko sticks with the pack and predicts victory for iPro London. 

 

Onwards to Germany

The second round of the 2017 Champion’s League will feature four matches, with each side facing the teams they are yet to play.  With 12 points on offer for each side to claim, no side can be considered out of the running, but as it always is, points on the board matter most.  Perhaps crucially, KoR Oudenaarde have to play both the current top and second placed teams in Germany, so it is likely that their results will be crucial to final make up.  KoR play Copenhagen in the final match at 17:30 on Saturday afternoon while London faced the Swiss Army Knives at the same time, with bonus points also in play, those last 2 hours could provide some of the most intriguing Racketlon ever seen in the Champions League!

As in Sweden there will be a host of ways for you to follow the action as it unfolds through the FIR Facebook page with live videos and updates direct from the team captains.  Additionally, the FIR are aiming to run a Live Blog to help everyone follow the days events.  Further information on this will be available through the FIR Facebook page.  Finally, on Wednesday 26th July at 21:00 (CEST, 20:00 BST), there will be a Facebook Live event with the FIR Facebook page hosting a panel of experts who will discuss what we can expect in the second round and also interviews with some of the players and captains.


James Pope
UK Racketlon