Rot-Weiss’s Henning relishing another showdown with some of the “best on this planet”

©: Frank Uijlenbroek / World Sport Pics

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“If you play the EHL, you want to battle with the best club teams and the best players on this planet.”

Rot-Weiss Köln coach André Henning says that while his side knows SV Kampong (April 18, 19.30h (CET)) very well, he is thrilled once again to be pitting his wits against one of the other main contenders for the EHL crown in the KO16.

It is the fourth successive season the two sides have met and the fifth time in six years. So far, Kampong have won three of those four meetings but the last time the two clubs met in Eindhoven, Rot-Weiss were successful en route to their maiden victory.

“Not the worst omen!” says Henning. “First of all it's always a pleasure and honour to face Kampong, one of the best teams in the world with great athletes and an outstanding coach.

“It already feels like playing against a German team because we don’t have to introduce our players to any of theirs! Both teams know each other very well but it's still a challenging preparation to find the winning details.”

Some may have thought “not again” when they saw this match-up but Henning says this is exactly the kind of game you want in the EHL>

“You don't have the right mentality if you come to the EHL and just want to get the easiest draw. If you play the EHL, you want to battle with the best club teams and the best players on this planet.

“We wanted the biggest possible challenge, we got the biggest challenge, fair enough. I played Kampong three times, one once, lost twice - I was happy about the draw to get the chance for the equaliser. And for my team, I have the feeling, that we really need the best opponents to get pushed to our limit.”

The German side – regular season winners in 2018 – have a star-studded side once again including Christopher Rühr, Mats and Tom Grambusch, Timur Oruz, Johannes Grosse, Jonas Gomoll, Marco Miltkau, Victor Aly and Thies Ole Prinz on their squad list.

Henning says they have had some injury issues but feels they will be cleared by the time the Kampong game comes around.

“In the last weeks, some players were struggling with injuries due to the high competition load from the FIH Pro League. But we are totally focused on a good preparation for the EHL and we have been able to give slightly injured players a rest. At the moment, all my players are fit and we are able to come with our best team to Eindhoven.”

With Easter later this year, they also have more Bundesliga games under their belt to build to the EHL than previous years. Results have been a little mixed, beating Harvestehuder THC (7-2) and Mannheimer HC (4-3) but losing to UHC Hamburg (4-2) and Berliner HC (3-2) but they look comfortable in the top two in the table

“We see the Bundesliga games as a kind of preparation so results were not that important for us, we focused on development. We had poor performances which helped us to gain knowledge about what we have to improve. And we had great games like against Mannheim or Harvestehuder which showed us how to play our best team hockey.

“We had seven games in the German League, which is a lot for us and indeed it did help a lot. But we had to play two matches each weekend, we haven’t had any time to bring the international players in to get a high athletic level.

“But, under these circumstances, I'm pretty happy with the preparation and proud that we don't have any big injuries, my staff and my team are doing a great job.

“For me personally the EHL is the best and most important competition. There are so many great teams which are able to win the trophy. I always enjoy the fantastic atmosphere in the stadium.

“As a coach this year's tournament format is very special with four games in five days for the FINAL4 participants. We need the perfect tactical strategy but the mental focus game by game as well. I like that a lot.”