This weekend will feature the long-anticipated introduction of EHL Women for the first time.
The Euro Hockey League was praised back in late 2018 for taking club hockey “to the next level” following the news that the 2019/20 season would see the introduction of EHL Women.
The pandemic twice pushed the new format back but the women’s event will join the men’s European showpiece for the first time in Amsterdam after two standalone tournaments.
The historic first match features Spanish champions Club de Campo against Germany’s 2018 and 2019 winners Der Club an der Alster.
Following that, a Dutch classico matches up its two biggest rivals – AH&BC Amsterdam and Den Bosch.
Here, EHL previews the two encounters
Club de Campo de Madrid (Spain) v Der Club an der Alster (Germany), 11.30am (CET)
The first ever EHL Women’s contest is also a first ever meeting between these two clubs outdoors but there will be plenty of knowledge of each other due to the high volume of international talent between the two squads.
Campo feature 10 of the latest Spanish women’s squad named in March with the Barrios twins Laura and Sara joining experienced heads like Bea Perez, Maria Ruiz, Begoña Garcia, Alicia Magaz and Maria Lopez.
The side is captained by Rocio Gutierrez, now 35, who signed off iher nternational career outdoors with a World Cup bronze in 2018. She says she feels “fitter than when she was 20” but she is keeping cards close to her chest about whether this will be her last season, saying: “If this is the first and last EHL for me, I don’t know!”
They are coached by Edu Aguilar who was at the helm when the side won bronze in the old EuroHockey Club Cup in 2015 and 2018. He is hoping it will be third time lucky and he has plenty of EHL pedigree. His last game as a player for Campo was in the 2011 EHL GRAND FINAL for Campo, losing 1-0 to HGC.
Campo come into the contest with an unbeaten league record, winning 52 out of 54 points on offer in the Iberdrola League.
For Alster, their only outdoor EuroHockey Club Cup appearance ended in a bronze medal, brilliantly coming back from 1-0 down to defeat Den Bosch in the third/fourth place playoff in the 2019 competition.
The Hamburg club had a tough pre-Christmas run in the Bundesliga but they have been superb in their three games in 2021, beating Rot-Weiss Köln 4-2, Harvestehuder THC 2-0 and Rüsselheimer HC 5-0, all away from home.
While they still third in their section of the league, it has reignited their hopes of making it three successive German titles having made the breakthrough in 2017/18 and backed that up in 2018/19.
Anne Schröder is a guiding force in midfield while top scorer Hannah Gablac knows the route to goal. Carlotta Sippel is their rising star, the 19-year-old drag-flicker giving them penalty corner power. There is a Scottish flavour too with goalkeeper Amy Gibson and new arrival from Edinburgh University Laura Swanson in the line-up.
Alster coach Jens George has an idea of what to expect, saying: “They are technically very good, internationally experienced and strong in their duels. Above all, their switching play is dangerous. There is no such thing as easy in a European semi-final! Two years ago we made the mistake of thinking we were in the final already when we took on the Spanish representative [Real Sociedad] at the time. We will definitely not make the same mistake again! “
AH&BC Amsterdam v HC ’s-Hertogenbosch
The Dutch classico, between them, these two clubs combined to win 30 EuroHockey Club Cups wince the competition was introduced in 1974 with host club AH&BC Amsterdam landing 14 of them and Den Bosch holding a record 16.
Amsterdam are slightly behind on that front but they did cut that gap back in 2019 when they edged out Den Bosch in the semi-final 1-0 before winning the cup title with a 7-0 success over Real Sociedad with Marijn Veen scoring a hat trick. Since then, the likes of Charlotte Vega and Kitty van Male have retired while Kelly Jonker moved on to Pinoké.
It has opened the door for some rising stars like joint top scorer Michelle Fillet, Joy Haarman, Noor de Baat and Floor de Haan to play a greater role. 2018 and 2019 FIH Player of the Year Eva de Goede runs the midfield while Maria Verschoor, Lauren Stam, Ilse Kappelle and Anne Veenendaal bring quality to each line. Up front, Freeke Moes has enjoyed a brilliant first season at the club since joining from Oranje-Rood.
Coach Robert Tigges is another with EHL know-how, playing in the competition 33 times in stints with HC Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
They currently sit top of the Hoofdklasse, three points ahead of Den Bosch but with a game extra played in the competition. Their January meeting saw Amsterdam win 1-0 with Noor de Baat’s fortuitous goal the difference.
For the Brabant club, they will be without Margot van Geffen due to a broken arm sustained during the big freeze in the Netherlands. Nonetheless, they have so much international talent in their line-up with a fearsome forward line including Frédérique Matla and and Lidewij Welten with speed and direct running the order of the day.
Laura Nunnink is another brilliant addition since moving from Oranje-Rood while Ireen van den Assem has a dangerous corner option in addition to her defensive work.
The tournament will mark the last European competition – for the time-being anyway – for coach Raoul Ehren who will take on the Belgian women’s job full-time after this season. He has been at the helm for the last 12 years, winning 13 Hoofdklasse crowns and 11 Euro Club Cups. He will be replaced by Marieke Dijkstra.
How to watch EHL this weekend