Mikael Aggefors: “We know each and every side of each other”
The Match of the Week for the first leg of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League is a particularly special one, as top Danish teams Aalborg Håndbold and GOG meet each other on the European stage for the first time.
Aalborg goalkeeper Mikael Aggefors has no doubt that it will be a fun game, having to meet their rivals from the small Danish town of Gudme in two such important matches.
"The fact that it's just against GOG is funny. We have met them so many times in recent seasons. We know each other really well. So, it's not that classic Champions League showdown, but it's still a win or lose game in 120 minutes rather than the usual 60 minutes,” Aggefors thinks.
“It’s special that it is GOG and not an outside European team from another country. The tactical part will also be different than if it was a more unknown team for us, because we know each other so well in advance,” he adds.
Even though Aalborg and GOG have met both in the Danish league and in the Danish cup in recent times, it is pretty clear that it will feel like the EHF Champions League when the teams throw off at 18:00 CET on Thursday.
“I still think that people perceive that it is an EHF Champions League match, because it is a play-off match and not a group match. If it had been a group match, there probably wouldn't have been that much difference from a Danish league match. But when it's in the knock-out phase, it's just different, because all goals count,” says the Swedish goalkeeper.
“It is not only a battle to win, but also a battle to do as well as possible and get as good a starting point as possible before the next round in the second leg.”
The two teams – who lead the scoreboard in the Danish league with 39 points each – have a habit of playing close matches against each other, and this round will probably be no exception.
"It can go either way. Now we've both won and lost to them recently, so it's always close games. If it's not more than a five-goal defeat, then we're still in the game, I think. So, it would surprise me a lot if it doesn't happen that both teams have everything to play for in the second match as well,” Aggefors adds.
“I have to say that we know each and every side of each other. It is more about the prioritisation of the situations that we and GOG will allow. There will be no surprises. There may be a single goal or two that may be surprising, but in the game itself, no one can surprise each other. It will be about the small matches and the small duels in the match," says Aggefors.
Pytlick must be stopped
For the home team, it is no guarantee that the team's big stars will be on the field in the first leg of the play-off matches. Players like Mikkel Hansen and Lukas Sandell are out, while others are doubtful.
It looks better for GOG, who can count on several goalscoring machines such as Simon Pytlick and Emil Madsen as well as goalkeeper Tobias Thulin.
Aggefors has a clear idea of who and what needs to be stopped in order to get out of the showdown successfully.
"Shouldn't we have Pytlick shielded from the best shooting situations? He is a really good player and has been for a long time. The fast break phase GOG has is one that you want to minimise and shut down as much as possible. They have a good team with many good players. So, it's not so much at the player level that we have to shut them down, but more as a whole, where we play our own game,” he explains.
However Aggefors does not underestimate Aalborg’s chances of progressing from the play-offs.
“I think we have performed well throughout the spring - apart from a single league match and the EHF Champions League match against Kielce in the group phase. We have played really well and are in a good flow. Many players contribute to the team. I have great faith and hope that we can get a good result on Thursday,” he concludes.
Photos © Henrik Hansen