MT Melsungen will be travelling for the second matchday of the DKB Handball Bundesliga. The club is headed this time to Nuremberg, where it will play against freshly promoted HC Erlangen. The match will be held in the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, capable of holding an audience of over 8,000. Throw-off is on Saturday at 7 pm. The event's organisers expect roughly 3,000 spectators. Radio HNA will broadcast the event on its livestream. After a surprising defeat at the hand of newly promoted Coburg, the boys in red-and-white need a victory on this second matchday.
Where the path for MT Melsungen will head in this first part of the season may well be decided this coming Saturday. After a completely unexpected defeat in the season opener against newly promoted HSC Coburg, the team under coach Michael Roth is already feeling some pressure to win on this second matchday. As Michael Müller sees it: "If you look at the fixtures, we follow Erlangen immediately with the Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Gummersbach and Flensburg. You can see why a win on Saturday is so enormously important".
Müller: Must be more careful with the ball
The MT captain continues: "We didn't call an emergency meeting after our collective muff against Coburg. We instead sat down and analysed the match with fresh eyes. Although I think everyone already knew what they'd done wrong. When you blow ten different wide open goal opportunities, then you end up losing to a newly promoted side. We must be much more careful with the ball against Erlangen, a team that on the whole is a good deal stronger than Coburg".
Roth: Erlangen is of a different calibre than Coburg
"No question, we've really put ourselves into a bit of a fix by losing to Coburg", Michael Roth admits. The MT coach rode his team for days afterwards for giving up those two points. "Maybe the pre-season ran just a bit too smoothly. After winning the tournament in Ilsenburg, we really had a very good feeling heading into the season opener. And yet as you saw it turned out very differently. If the opponent had been clearly better, then you'd be able to deal with it a bit easier. But we ended up leading several times in that match without managing to seize it by the reins. For this upcoming match, it means that we need to play with much more concentration — without overthinking things. This opponent is simply of a different calibre than the last one.
The MT will continue to be without several key players.
Michael Roth is not at all pleased with the continued absence of several key players. Keeper Johan Sjöstrand, pivot Marino Maric and left wing Michael Allendorf, three of last year's workhorses, will be out, as will newly acquired Gabor Langhans. Whether Erlangen saw that opening loss and is licking its chops at prospect of taking advantage of a weakened MT side is not of interest to the MT coach: "It doesn't matter to us what the opponent is thinking. We need to worry about what we can control. Each and every one of us knows what's at stake".
The MT caravan will start the 300 kilometre journey that same day, arriving at a short-term hotel near Nuremberg. The team well be joined its fan clubs, Bartenwetzer, MT-Trommler and Supporters.
Euphoria in and around Erlangen
HC Erlangen has returned to the Bundesliga for the second time in club history, following a one year stint in 2014/15. "The year in the Second Bundesliga didn't break us down. Quite the contrary, the euphoria remained in place during that period and, given that we were promoted, will continue to grow throughout the region. One clear sign is that media interest has risen sharply", indicated Erlangen Press Spokesman Steffen Brandes. The club's home venue, Arena Nürnberg, can host up to 8,000 spectators, although it is not expected to be anywhere near sold out on Saturday for the match against the MT. "Given that the schools are still on summer holiday, we're estimating a solid 3,000 spectators. But we can arrange the arena so that it seems quite full. We guarantee that the atmosphere will be fantastic", Brandes says with confidence.
With promotion comes reinforcements
Handball observers believe the HCE has a strong shot at retaining its spot in the Bundesliga, much more so than the last time. The team is coached by Robert Andersson — one of the voices that called the MT a potential title contender — and brought in vastly superior upgrades at five positions: In goal, fan favourite Nikolas Katsigiannis has returned from perennial contender THW Kiel. In the backcourt, Michael Haaß (120 Bundesliga caps, World Champion in 2007, most recently with SC Magdeburg) will serve as playmaker.
To his left, Isaias Guardiola — brother of Rhein-Neckar Löwen defensive captain Gedéon — will deliver the necessary pressure. Guardiola previously played with Christian Zeitz at top Hungarian club Veszprem.
In place World Champion and home grown product Sebastian Preiß, HC Erlangen first signed Slovenian national player Uros Bundalo from HBC Nantes. When he suffered what is expected to be an extended injury, Stanko Sabljic was quickly signed. Sabljic had already placed for the HCE back in 2014 before switching to Zagreb and playing there with Croatia into the quarterfinals of the Champions League. - It's no wonder then that the MT coach and captain are both warning about this foe.
Between 2013 and 2015 two matches in the Bundesliga, one match in the DHB Cup. The MT won all three.
Referees in Nuremberg:
Lars Geipel/ Marcus Helbig (Leipzig / Landsberg); DHB Observer: Bernd Andler
Radio HNA will broadcast the match starting promptly at 7pm on the internet at radiohna.de. Sports reporter Patrick Schuhmacher will have the mike, with MT President Axel Geerken likely serving as colour man.
MT fan reporter Antje Langhorst will be sending updates and scores via Twitter to
Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, Kurt-Leucht-Weg 11, 90471 Nuremberg, 8,308 seats