Hannover (GER) – Semi-finals
20.30 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Zodiac Barceloneta (ESP)
• Ferencvaros prevented to have the same four teams reaching the semi-finals as in last year when Recco, Olympiacos, Barceloneta and Jug made the top four. Now the Hungarians took over Jug’s place with a fine win in the quarters. They are the only side in the semis now which has never won the trophy before.
• All four teams already secured its respective domestic league title, so the Champions League trophy is contested by four national champions.
• Ferencvaros and Barceloneta already met in the prelims, the Spaniards won both matches, 9-8 in Budapest and 9-6 in Barcelona.
• Ferencvaros reached the semi-finals once in the history of this competition, in 1989 when they met another team from Barcelona, Catalunya. That time they played on a home-and-away basis, Ferencvaros won the first leg 7-6, in the return leg the Spaniards also won 7-6, after the 2x3min extra-time it stood 8-7, so a thrilling sudden death decided the outcome and in the third period the hosts scored the winning goal (the game lasted some 41 and half playing minutes, in reality more than one and a half hours).
• This is the 5th semi-final for Barceloneta, they won 1 and lost 3 in the previous 4 occasions. Their only win came in 2014, at home, they won against Primorje 10-8 and went on winning the title. They lost the SF 5-9 to Crvena Zvezda in 2013, 11-12 to Recco in 2015, and 4-6 to Olympiacos last year.
• Ferencvaros is the first team in the history to reach the semis after finishing 4th in the prelims. When they beat Jug 10-9 in the quarters, they became the first team to achieve this in five years as Jug had always won its game on Day 1 in the previous four editions of the Final 6/8.
• Since the introduction of the current format, Barceloneta holds a 3-1 edge over Hungarian teams in the finals: they beat Szolnok 10-9 in the quarters in 2015 (after 6-6, with penalties), Szolnok took revenge next year in the same phase (7-5), then Barceloneta beat Eger 10-6 for the 5th place and last year they beat Eger once more, 9-4 in the quarters.
• In fact, just as last year, Barceloneta won its QF by five goals again (12-7 against BPM).
• The shooting percentages were almost identical on Thursday: Ferencvaros scored 10 goals from 24 shots for 41.7%, while Barceloneta had 12 goals from 29 shots for 41.4%
• As for man-ups, Ferencvaros was 2 for 9 in extra and got 6 goals from 15 man-downs. Barceloneta was 2/11 in man-up – conceded 5 goals from 8 man-downs.
• Ferencvaros goalie Soma Vogel (son of 1994 Champions League-winner Zsolt Vogel, with Ujpest, apparently against Catalunya) posted 8 saves on 15 shots for 53.3% (saved a penalty). As usual, Spanish national team goalie Dani Lopez was tremendous, had 10 saves on 16 shots for 62.5%.
• As a matter of curiosity, a couple of players of Ferencvaros was part of some above-mentioned clashes with Barceloneta while playing for other teams. Denes Varga played for Primorje when they lost to the Spaniards in 2014. He then, together with Marton Vamos and Stefan Mitrovic played for Szolnok when they lost to Barceloneta in 2015 and also next year when they took revenge.
• This match features two truly outstanding players, both wearing cap No 10 – 2008 Olympic champion Denes Varga was MVP of the 2012 Final Four, while Felipe Perrone was MVP of the Final Six in 2015 and 2016.
• Denes Varga leads the in-house ranks of FTC with 27 goals, followed by Aaron Younger and Marton Vamos 25 goals apiece and Stefan Mitrovic with 16 goals.
• In Barceloneta Alberto Munarriz is the top scorer with 29 goals (though he was 0/4 on Day 1), Felipe Perrone added 3 goals to have 23, followed by Blai Mallarach with 20 and Alvaro Granados is next with 19.
Champions League Final Eight, Hannover (GER) – Semi-finals
19.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
• This is the re-match of last year’s final where Olympiacos upset host Recco in a great game, the Greek won 9-7 in Genoa to clinch their second title after 2002. Recco is now looking for its 9th title here.
• In fact, that was Olympiacos’s first-ever win over Recco in the Champions League, the Italians won all 6 matches played before.
• Their first game in this competition dates back to 1970, Recco beat Olympiacos 7-0 in a round robin tournament in the best eight stage.
• Next was a semi-final in 2007, in Milano, Recco won 10-9.
• After that they met in the prelims in 2014, Recco won 9-7 and 12-6 – then in 2015, Recco won with ease, 17-12 at home and 12-8 in Piraeus. So the head-to-head stands 6-1.
• Recco is now 15/15 in this season’s Champions League after beating Hannover in the quarter-finals 14-10.
• Olympiacos had some ups and downs in the prelims but they won their last 6 matches, so by beating Brescia 8-7 in the QF yesterday, they are in a 7-game winning streak now.
• Since the introduction of the current format (F4/6/8), Recco played 13 semi-finals, won 10 and lost 3. Until 2016, their winning ratio stood at 9-1 (that only loss came in 2005, against Posillipo in Naples). Then in 2016 and 2017 Jug beat them surprisingly before Recco hit back last June in their third straight SF against the Croats.
• This is the 6th semi-final for Olympiacos, they won 4 out of 5, their only loss came in 2007 against Recco. They won the SF 7-6 against Posillipo Naples in 2001, 8-5 against Jug 2002, 8-7 against Szolnok in 2016 and 6-4 against Barceloneta last year.
• In its 14-10 quarter-final win, Recco had to face only the second double-digit score by an opponent in the current season: the other game when they got 10 or more goals was in Barcelona where Barceloneta netted 11. All other matches saw them conceding 8 goals or less.
• Olympiacos got used to the thrills of the quarter-finals, last year they beat Spandau 6-5, now they won 8-7 against Brescia.
• Recco’s shooting percentage was 43.8% on Thursday (against Hannover), netting 14 goals from 32 shots. Olympiacos produced 30.8%, 8 goals from 26 shots.
• Recco was 5 for 10 in man-ups and got 3 goals from 10 man-downs. Olympiacos was 2 for 9 and 3 from 11.
• There will be possibly a special clash of two Croatian goalkeepers: Marko Bijac, world champion in 2017, took over the national team’s red cap from Josip Pavic, Olympic champion in 2012. On Thursday Bijac had 11 saves on 21 shots for 52.4%, while Pavic had 9 on 16 for 56.2%.
• Aussie (New Zealand born) centre-forward Joseph Kayes took the first place among Recco’s top scorers with 2 goals against Hannover, he stands with 31. Montenegrin Aleksandar Ivovic had 29, followed by the two Serbian lefties, Filip Filipovic with 27 and Dusan Mandic with 25.
• As for Olympiacos, the top scorer of the whole preliminary round Konstantinos Genioudias added one goal to have 35, next is Alexandros Gounas with 30, Ioannis Fountoulis comes with 23 and Paulo Obradovic with 17. Though worth noting that the top three Greek players could score 3 goals from a combined of 14 shots against Brescia (Fountoulis was 1 for 7).
• Note that in London 2012 Recco’s current head coach Ratko Rudic led the Croatian team to Olympic gold which featured the three Croatians who are now playing for Olympiacos, Josip Pavic, Paulo Obradovic and Andro Buslje.
• To highlight the time-frame of Ratko Rudic’s legendary career: he coached Perica Bukic to Olympic greatness in 1984 and 1988 (then as Yugoslavia), and now he is coaching his son, Luka Bukic in Recco.
• Recco has 9 players in its current squad who played in last year’s final against the Greeks (Bijac, Kayes, Dobud, Velotto and Bukic joined the team since), while Olympiacos fields 12 from the winning side in 2018 (only Skoumpakis was not part of the show).