INTERVIEW – Last year, Mikael Appelgren was attending the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne as a spectator. In 2018, he is keen to come back to Lanxess Arena again, but as a player on the court.
By Peter Bruun
Rhein-Neckar Löwen’s Swedish goalkeeping duo, Mikael Appelgren and Andreas Palicka, have returned to their day job after collecting positive memories at the EHF EURO 2018, in Croatia last month.
Not only did they win a silver medal, they also represented the best goalkeeping duo in the tournament. No doubt they will need all the self-confidence, considering the challenges ahead of the second half of the 2017/18 season.
On Thursday, Bundesliga resumes and for Rhein-Neckar Löwen, it all comes down to defending first place. First TBV Lemgo will be visiting, before the EHF Champions League kicks in with a group match at home against Pick Szeged, on Sunday.
Mikael Appelgren is looking forward to the spring season.
“Things look very good for us, I think.
“We have won the German championship twice in a row and we are currently number one in the Bundesliga.
“I believe this sums it up – how strong a team we are. It gives us much confidence to solve the tasks that lie ahead,” Appelgren tells stregspiller.com.
FINAL4 is the objective
In the Champions League, Rhein-Neckar Löwen are currently ranked fourth in Group 1, while rival Vardar Skopje appears to be out of reach, sitting on top, six points ahead of the German “Lions”.
Löwen´s next opponent – Pick Szeged – are only three points behind the German champion. Such circumstances elevate Sunday’s game to a key match of sorts, as finishing in the top four means playing the second leg of the Round of Last 16 at home, while a fifth place takes you on the road for the last game.
Naturally, Mikael Appelgren and his teammates want it as easy as possible during the knockout phase, and the 28-year-old goalkeeper doesn’t hide that the FINAL4 is the big goal. Last year, I saw Mikael Appelgren in the stands at Lanxess Arena in Cologne.
“Having been there last year and experiencing the event live, has certainly increased my appetite of returning as a player.
“The atmosphere was fantastic and with a German team among the participants, it would probably be even better. So, of course, playing the FINAL4 is a real big dream for me and I would really like it to come true this season already,” he says.
He considers his dream a realistic one.
“I think our chances to reach the FINAL4 are really good this season.
“Of course, we have suffered from some unnecessary defeats in the Champions League already – against Zagreb for instance – but on the other hand, we have demonstrated that we can defeat some of the best teams in Europe.
“We also managed a draw in Barcelona after a tough weekend (a Bundesliga match on Saturday, followed by a Champions League game in Barcelona, on Sunday, ed.) and I think it proves that we have a very good chance against any opponent.
“Mentally you have to be completely present in each and every match – that’s how I see it. If we can accomplish this, and if we can avoid major injuries, I do not see why we should not go all the way,” finds Mikael Appelgren.
“Of course, our situation is a bit different compared to a team like Barcelona, for instance. They only have to focus on the Champions League.
“We could probably use a slightly larger squad, still I find our team deep enough to handle both competitions, if we stay free of injury.
“If we do, things look really bright for us,” says Mikael Appelgren.