Rot-Weiss to create new solutions in Rühr and Mazkour absence

Rot-Weiss Köln will bid for a second EHL title this week at the Wagener Stadium off the back of an impressive 5-2 win over Harvestehuder THC. 

It was a strong way to bounce back following their 2-1 defeat to Mannheimer a week earlier on their return to Bundesliga action. 

** article by Markus Lehnen

One reason for that early restart was to reduce the disadvantage they have against Dutch and Belgian sides who return earlier from their winter stop. 

With Easter coming early this year, the issue is an acute one but not quite so bad as some years for the German champions. 

“The disadvantage is definitely smaller this year, that’s good,” said Cologne’s Dutch head coach Pasha Gademan. He is probably less satisfied with the current situation in his forward line.

Rot-Weiss’s top scorer in the first half of the season with eleven goals, Christopher Rühr, suffered a torn cruciate ligament in the semi-finals of the Olympic qualifying tournament for Germany and will be out injured for the first half of 2024.

The most logical replacement, Elian Mazkour, recently suffered an ankle ligament injury in training and so will also be out. 

Nonetheless, the 11-time German champions still have a side packed with star talent like world champions Mats Grambusch, Tom Grambusch, Jean-Paul Danneberg, Thies-Ole Prinz and Timur Oruz as well as Johannes Große (who only missed the World Cup due to injury).

In Antheus Barry, Fabio Seitz, Luis Höchemer, Aron Flatten and Michel Struthoff, they also have five Under-21 world champions. 

Before Christmas, they became “fall champions” with the same number of points as Uhlenhorst Mülheim and are heading for the playoffs, where the boys from the Rhine’s big goal is nothing less than the fourth championship title in a row. 

And the EHL title would carry extra resonance as Gademan (back to the Netherlands), Mats Grambusch (to hometown club Gladbacher HTC) and Große (to Club an der Alster) have already indicated they will move on this summer. 

Their route to the title begins with a date against Belgian league leaders Royal Léopold “There are really high hurdles in our half of the draw,” Gademan says.

“Our problems are well known: We finally had a longer preparation for the EHL but Chris and Eli are now out, and Timur Oruz will hopefully be back in time.

“We have to deal with that somehow; individually, of course, we will miss their quality which we will have to compensate for in other ways.  

“We showed how this works against HTHC; we have to be connected to each other, communicate and motivate each other, always hard but fair.  

“Everything has to work great if we want to win one, two or even all three games. It will be difficult, but we are also a very good team that can do it.” 

As for their FINAL8 opponent: “Léopold is number one in Belgium, they score a lot of goals with Tom Boon and Gauthier Boccard. This is a good team with a good structure. We have to beat them first and only then can we plan the next steps.” 

Captain Mats Grambsuch adds: “Of course the EHL title would be a wonderful end to my time at KTHC.  

“However, we have very strong opponents at the highest international level again this year. As a team, we will miss Chrissi in an incredible number of areas. His quality can hardly be put into words.

“But we will especially miss him as a guy. We won’t be able to replace that.”

On Rot-Weiss’ chances without both top strikers, he adds: “The draw is definitely strong, but it always is from the quarter-finals in the EHL.  

“So far I haven’t given too much thought to a potential semi-final/final. With Leopold we have quite a challenge ahead of us. We will miss Chrissi and Eli very much, both of them are guaranteed goals, especially in knockout games.

“However, I still see us as favourites in the quarter-finals. The breadth of our team is strong enough to compensate for such absences in other ways.”