Second place in the women's handball Bundesliga (HBF) with no defeats, sixth place in the EHF Champions League with a good chance of qualifying for the play-offs, in the quarter-finals of the DHB-Pokal: the Borussia Dortmund women's handball team have performed well in the first three months of the 2021/22 campaign - despite bad luck with injuries. Coach André Fuhr takes stock on the season so far. 

On the wide sandy beach of the North Sea island of Norderney, André Fuhr traditionally finds peace and time to set himself straight, take a deep breath and look back on what he has achieved. Straight after the Champions League match against Esbjerg, the native of East Westphalia went to the island in the Wadden Sea. A week's holiday was in order after a total of 18 games (plus the Supercup) in just three months. A stressful time. But also a successful one. On Norderney, the 50-year-old found time to look back on his team's progress in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.

His summary reads as follows: "We are doing well in all three competitions. That's the situation right now. The bottom line is that my young team, who have been put together more or less from scratch, have given an extraordinarily good account of themselves," said Fuhr, attesting to a strong start to the season for his players. Both at domestic and international level.

The HBF is currently taking a break due to the World Cup in Spain (1 to 19 December). For the reigning German champions Borussia Dortmund, it picks up again on 29 December with a game in Blomberg, followed by a headline clash in Bietigheim on 2 January. First against second. Who would have predicted that after the season got off to such a bad start with the heavy defeat to Bietigheim in the Supercup? There was soon talk about an apparent lack of quality in the squad, which had lost several key players in the summer. All the doubters have long been silenced.

"I am really pleased, we haven't dropped a single point in the Bundesliga. The extent to which our goal difference of +55 is inferior to Bietigheim's (+105) highlights the gap between the two teams. But again I have to stress: our schedule was almost exclusively made up of draining English weeks, with games at the weekend and on Wednesdays. This was completely new territory for our young team. In addition to the extreme physical and mental strain, there was also the stress of travelling," said André Fuhr in his summary of eight games played in the Bundesliga (second place without minus points), eight group games in the EHF Champions League (sixth place with seven points) and two wins in the DHB-Pokal (a place in the quarter-finals secured).

Seven Black & Yellows at the World Cup

However, the team have struggled to perform to their maximum over the 60 minutes of a Bundesliga game, as Fuhr confirmed: "The first 20 minutes against Buxtehude were certainly extremely impressive. When you consider that we won the game 37-31 and when you see that Buxtehude is in fourth place in the table today, then it makes it all the more remarkable. You have to remember that our team was completely new and managed to withstand the pressure of having to win every Wednesday night in the Bundesliga."

In January, in addition to picking things up in the league and the DHB-Pokal, the team may also be able to book a place in the next stage of the EHF Champions League. On 8 or 9 January, BVB will play HC Podravka Vegeta. A place in the play-offs is at stake for the Black & Yellows, who have made a name for themselves in Europe's elite competition. "BVB are respected as strong opponents. Dortmund have arrived in Europe and are no longer underestimated," said Esbjerg coach Jesper Jensen after the Champions League match in the Helmut-Körnig-Halle.

Highlights of the team's European campaign so far have been the 30-27 win over Brest, the 25-25 draw with Budapest and the 38-14 triumph over Podravka. However, Fuhr was disappointed that his side lost by ten goals away in Esbjerg. "It must be said that we rested Alina Grijseels towards the end of the game, which obviously had a negative effect on us. I also consider Esbjerg to be one of the four strongest teams in the Champions League," said Fuhr as he tried not to be too critical of his team.

Let's remember that last season's title-winning team - superior to this year's on paper - failed to make an impact in the Champions League. One year later? "We have seven points after eight games. No German team has managed that before. Sixth place can only be taken away from us mathematically. And if things go well, we even have a chance of finishing fifth," says Fuhr, looking ahead optimistically. If all goes according to plan, BVB will be among the top ten teams in Europe. However, to achieve this they'll first have to win away to Podravka Vegeta in the northern Croatian city of Koprivnica.

Before André Fuhr and his team are back in action, a total of seven Black & Yellows will be busy representing their national teams: Alina Grijseels, Mia Zschocke, Amelie Berger (Germany), Laura van der Heijden, Merel Freriks, Yara ten Holte (Netherlands) and Jennifer Gutiérrez Bermejo (Spain) are all on duty at the World Cup in Spain.