Champions League, prelims, Day 9 – Preview
Eger, Radnicki, Olympiacos?
We have a three-horse race in Group A for the remaining Final Six berth. Eger (HUN) is in a good position, but face a couple of tough challenges in the last two rounds, while Radnicki (SRB) and Olympiacos (GRE) have slim hopes to book a place in Barcelona. In Group B, the only question remains who will finish first – but this is going to be decided on the last day, if Rijeka (CRO) does its job in the first weekend round of the Champions League.
Friday, 19.00: AN Brescia (ITA) vs. Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
Neither side can lose too much on Friday evening: Brescia will miss the Final Six this season – they made it in 2014 – while Barceloneta has a granted berth as the host. Though the Spaniards has something to fight for: a second place finish would mean that they cannot face Recco in the semis, provided they win on the opening day. Their clash in Barcelona ended in a 7-7 tie, now the Spaniards look to be in a better shape.
Here is what the coaches expect.
Brescia’s head coach, Sandro Bovo:
“Even though the result doesn’t matter, for both teams, our goal is to win. They are the title-holders and we’ll do our best to play a very good game in front of our fans. We believe that we deserve more points than we’ve got so far and the last place in the ranking boosts us a lot. So, we’re ready for the challenge.”
Chus Martin, head coach of Barceloneta:
„We are going to Italy with the intention of playing a good game and getting the 3 points against an excellent team even though they are no-options for playing the Final Six. I’m sure that both teams will play a good match.”
18.00: Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) vs. Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
All eyes on the Radnicki pool as the outcome of this clash is decisive. The loser will surely get out of contest – a tie would mean a double failure. The winner will only maintain the chance to go through but that requires Eger (HUN) losing their last game at home against Barceloneta on Day 10. (If the Hungarians create a miracle in Recco, then they reach the Final Six on this Saturday.)
Though Radnicki had two points more, their win would still reserve a rather slim hope, as their last game is due in Recco – and they would need six points to go to Barcelona, a kind of mission impossible. However, Serbian teams never give in and they posted a couple of brilliant performances in their home pool, so Olympiacos will need everything to stop them. In fact, the Greeks had a better chance to earn six points as they play against Brescia at home on Day 10, and if Eger loses both its remaining matches, Olympiacos would go through as they are better in the head-to-head with the Hungarians.
Uroš Stevanović, head coach of Radnicki:
“We still have mathematical chance for F6 but we know that it’s extremely difficult to go Barcelona. Still, we want to win our last game in Kragujevac in this season of Championship League and we will give the best of us.”
20.30: Pro Recco (ITA) vs. ZF-Eger (HUN)
As the only unbeaten side of the Champions League – and also unbeaten in this calendar year in any competition –, the next hurdle for Pro Recco can easily be cleared. At least at the first look since Eger can cause an upset if its players had a good day. To beat Recco, they have to have their best day of the season, however. And that won’t be easy as they suffered an embarrassing defeat at home in the domestic league’s playoffs against a much lower-ranked side (though a 4min ejection turned the game in the third period).
These two sides’ first encounter was rather one-sided – as most of Recco’s games in the season –, the Italians thrashed their rivals in Eger (4-12). They also showed that they were capable of delivering something special in any matches, just think of their dramatic come-back in Piraeus on Day 8, when they demolished the Greeks 6-1 in the last quarter, after being on equal terms for three periods.
Mino Marsili, Recco:
“Eger is a good team, with high-level players, they are very competitive. It will be a good game and certainly challenging.”
Giacomo Pastorino, goalkeeper of Recco:
It will be a real battle in which we must try to do our best to beat such a strong team. We have the honor of being part of Pro Recco and our condemnation is to win any time, anywhere.”
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach of Eger:
“We are aware of that we have to gain 3 points in 2 matches in order to qualify to the Final Six. Our chances for that are not the best in Recco. However, I would not be disappointed if we could do this in the home of the tournament’s favourite team.”
Peter Biros, team captain:
“We could play freely in Recco, if we lose we would still have the chance to get to the final. The most important is not to start stressing and just keep on playing our own game. We know what they are capable of but I believe we can reach our goals with an unexpected victory.”
Krisztian Bedo, player of Eger
“Comparing to the match we played in Eger, we improved a lot. We want to prove we belong to the international elite. At the same time I have to admit, it would be a miracle if we could gain the 3 points we need in Recco. But if we will be able to play at our best there it might still happen.”
Balazs Erdelyi, player of Eger
“Our last failure in the championship made us even stronger. We are defiant, ready to fight and want to show what we are capable of. We could fix everything in Recco, even if we know that the chances are not on our side in this game.”
1. Recco 24, 2. Eger 13, 3. Barceloneta 11, 4. Radnicki 9, 5. Olympiacos 7, 6. Brescia 5
17.15: Primorje Erste Banka Rijeka (CRO) vs. Galatasaray Istanbul (TUR)
It’s a tricky game for Primorje as Galatasaray almost managed to catch Jug, the other Croatian participant needed something special to score twice in the last 21 seconds in Istanbul. So even though the hosts are the outstanding favourites of this match, they have to offer their best to avoid any surprising outcome. As they trail by 3 points to Szolnok (HUN), they cannot afford losing a single point against the Turks, in order to stage a showdown on the last day against the Hungarians.
Ivan Asic, head coach of Primorje:
“We are in in good situation, already qualified for the Final Six, with a chance to finish in the first place in our group. We know that Galatasaray stopped Jug on Day 8. I think that we are a better team and we must find motivation and inspiration in front of our great supporters. Some of my players are a bit tired or have physical problems. The season is very long and intense for everyone.”
18.00: Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) vs. Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
Szolnok is keen to bid a fitting farewell to their home crowd and this might not require huge efforts as they heavily beat Spandau already in Berlin (setting a single-game scoring record in the prelims by netting 17 goals). Their big game is still to come in Rijeka on Day 10, when the top spot will be decided at the Adriatic coast.
Sándor Cseh, head coach of Szolnok:
“We won our first game against Spandau 04 in Berlin by 17-7, which does not mean that we should underestimate them. Since then they became a better and stronger team. They are in a big fight with Partizan Beograd for the 4th place. This will be a hard encounter and we must win so we can play for the first place in our group in Rijeka.
“This is going to be a very important match. We must not underestimate Spandau since this is Champions League. They have great foreign players and they have an excellent Hungarian goalie, László Baksa. The goal difference is also very important. I think it will be a great encounter and we must win it.
19.00: Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) vs. Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB)
By dropping points in Istanbul, Jug get off the ride for the top spot in the group – but their Final Six berth is not in danger. Partizan will miss the Final Six this time, still, a battle between a Croatian and a Serbian team can never be boring. It wasn’t that in Belgrade on Day 2 when Jug managed to win 5-3 in Belgrade despite a 4min ejection. That time their defending was close to perfection – it’s going to be interesting whether the young Serbs could amend their attacking strategy.
1. Szolnok 21, 2. Rijeka 18, 3. Jug 16, 4. Partizan 6, 5. Spandau 6, 6. Galatasaray 4