Danish derby requires the best from Viborg
After they made it all the way to the final last season, Viborg HK start their EHF European League Women 2022/23 campaign against Nykøbing Falster Håndbold this weekend. The Danish derby is one of the highlights of the last qualification round before the group phase.
Almost seven months ago, goalkeeper Anna Kristensen played the final of the EHF European League. Her club hosted the Energi Viborg EHF Finals but lost the last match, against SG BBM Bietigheim.
On Saturday, Kristensen and Viborg return to EHF European League action, meeting domestic rivals Nykøbing Falster Håndbold for the first leg of their qualification round 3 tie.
It will be the first of four matches between the two teams in December, as they play the reverse fixture next week and also meet once in the Danish league and once in the domestic cup competition.
How do two teams that know each other so well go into their duels?
“We know each other very well, and we will meet each other many times this December. So, it will be special, but we have to try to get the upper hand in these games,” Kristensen says.
“I don't think we have big surprises for each other, but it is about who plays the best and succeeds in their own things.”
Even if the opponents are familiar, that does not necessarily make it any easier.
“It is, of course, a tough opponent. We know Nykøbing are a really good team, and it wasn’t the team we were hoping to draw. But we will do everything to give them a fight to the finish line,” the goalkeeper says.
Viborg start with the away game on Saturday (live on EHFTV at 14:00 CET), before hosting Nykøbing for the all-decisive second leg in Viborg on Saturday 10 December.
Starting with the away game might be “an advantage” according to Kristensen,
“We know that Nykøbing are strong on home court, so we must leave with a good starting point for the return and then hopefully we can win at home afterwards,” she says.
Still, Kristensen is putting Nykøing in the role of favourites for their double derby.
“From the perspective of the Danish league this year, Nykøbing are slightly favourites. But I think both teams have opportunities. We have to hit top level in both games if we are to have a chance,” Kristiansen says.
Nykøbing saw their Dutch left back Estavana Polman leave for EHF Champions League side C.S. Rapid Bucuresti earlier this week, but are still a class team, according to Kristensen.
“NFH's strength is that they have a lot of talented players. They have five, six skilful backs, who take turns performing well, so we have to focus on a lot of players,” the Viborg goalkeeper says.
“NFH usually run a lot and play well in the counter. So, shutting it down will be key. But we must also put in a top performance in both attack and defence if we want to have a chance in these games.”
NFH usually run a lot and play well in the counter. So, shutting it down will be key. But we must also put in a top performance in both attack and defence if we want to have a chance in these games.
For Viborg, the matches against Nykøbing come at the right time, as the team is currently on a high, underlined by their 30:25 win against previously unbeaten league leaders Ikast Håndbold on Thursday night.
“It is really good,” Kristiansen says about the current form of Viborg.
The three-time EHF Champions League are recovering from a rough start to the domestic season, losing four of their first seven matches. They are ranked sixth now with 10 points, two behind Nykøbing in fourth.
“We have played some good games here after the EHF EURO break,” Kristensen says. “Especially against Ikast Håndbold, we hit some of our best form this year, and we want to take that with us.”