After round one in Germany, the Berlin Berghain Boasters top the Racketlon Champions League table. The defending champions claimed three wins out of three and eight out of a possible nine points on the day. However, also claiming three wins – but just the solitary bonus point – Sportyfriends Copenhagen finished round one on seven points.
Both of these sides have clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack. Three Percent Malta Magic and C&C Racketlon Union Austria both have three points with a win each plus a bonus point. Former champions iPro London picked up a win but no bonus points sitting 5th on two points while the Swedish Vikings went winless but picked up a losing bonus point.
As we head to Paris for the second and final round, it is time to find out how the Captains feel and preview what is to come.
No One Looking Beyond Berlin or Copenhagen
None of the captains are seeing anything but a Berlin Berghain Boasters and Sportyfriends Copenhagen battle for the 2019 Champions League title. So let us start with their respective captains, Amke Fischer and Morten Jaksland. They are two of the form players in 2019 and, based on the evidence of the Champions League so far, this is both on and off the court.
Unsurprisingly both captains are pleased with their first-round work, Amke delighted also with the team spirit shown as ever by the Triple B’s, a team who have always put a huge emphasis on the fun side of team Racketlon.
For Morten, it was all about a win on the court, Sportyfriends Copenhagen first win against iPro London. While Duncan was pleased to deny Sportyfriends Copenhagen a bonus point, it was not a great day in Germany for the President’s team, who were “caught cold” by the C&C Racketlon Union Austrian’s in the first set of matches, slipping to defeat. While they did grab victory over Three Percent Malta Magic, it was not a great day for the former champions.
For C&C Racketlon Union Austria Captain, Lukas Windischberger it was a demanding opening leg in Germany. They lost several players, with Bernard Pilsz injured before the event (replaced by Steffan Neumann) and Stephen Schmutzer injured during the event. Factor in matches against Sportyfriends Copenhagen and the Triple Bs and it was a pretty tough day for the Austrian side. However, Lukas was pleased with their day’s work after the victory over iPro London.
For Three Percent Malta Magic captain, Kresten Hougaard, it was an “okay” day, a solid win over Swedish Vikings, and a pleasing bonus point against the Berlin Berghain Boasters. However, you can sense his frustration that they came away with very little from the match against iPro London.
Who will triumph in Paris?
Previous iterations of the Champions League indicate that stability and fitness are key to a teams success. Both Berlin Berghain Boasters and Sportyfriends Copenhagen are only adding to their strength, Morten adding a second woman and local favourite in Natalia Prado is hoping to also gain the benefit of some home support. Meanwhile, while the Triple B’s will add Alex Du Noyer, who is “coming in as a joker” according to Amke.
iPro London are also bringing in reinforcements. A stalwart of their squad Natalie Paul returns in France, reuniting the Original Trilogy of Wiessner, Stahl and Paul for iPro London. Elsewhere it is less straightforward. With Luke Barnes now unable to make it to Paris, Lukas has been left short of a replacement male and also reports a question over Chrisi Seehofer’s shoulder, meaning that the third place finish might be a tough ask for the side currently in that position.
It also hasn’t been a simple few weeks for Kresten and Three Percent Malta Magic. Injury concerns about himself and leading lady Stine Jacobson have caused him a few headaches, but both are battlers and will be in Paris ready to play. They are also adding another warrior, as Richard Middleton will join the team, replacing Jon Spinks who is now unavailable due to new work commitments.
So, most importantly, who do they all think will win? Well, Lukas and Kresten favour Sportyfriends Copenhagen, while Duncan expects it will be victory for Berlin Berghain Boasters. As for our leading captains, well they clearly expect to face each other in the Grand Final and while they both back themselves, they also respect each other’s potential. Who is right will be determined on the courts of Paris.
What Lies Ahead in the Champions League?
New for 2019, the final two rounds fixtures will be played in Paris to determine the final league table. Then the top two sides will play each other in the Grand Final, while the third and fourth-placed teams will play-off to finalise the podium places. Those in fifth and sixth will be battling to avoid the wooden spoon.
There is the possibility for the fourth round to be a preview of all our finals, but it seems almost certain it will be a warm-up for the Grand Final as the Berlin Berghain Boasters will face Sportyfriends Copenhagen in the first set of matches. In the race to make the podium playoff positions, Three Percent Malta Magic will need a perfect start against C&C Racketlon Union Austria to secure their place, as you would expect Sportyfriends Copenhagen to defeat them in the final round.
Meanwhile, C&C Racketlon Union Austria will enter that match hoping to use their final tie versus the Swedish Vikings to set up that podium placement final. iPro London will want to upset those Austrian or Maltese plans, but they will have to do it the hard way as after Swedish Vikings they face Berlin Berghain Boasters. Captain Duncan however fully expects to earn a “shock victory” over the Triple B’s, before the German side take the trophy home once again.
Given we will see a top 2 shootout for the 2019 Title, I’ll leave the final word with Sportyfriends Copenhagen captain Morten: “I think it will be a straight-up battle with BBB for the title, and we are ready for it”. I don’t know about you, but I bet it will be a thriller!
James Pope / FIR Writer
Image Credit / Amke Fischer