Champions League, Prelims, Day 7 – Preview

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Champions League, Prelims, Day 7 – Preview

Decision time in Brescia

Olympiakos (GRE) and Recco (ITA) might join Szolnok (HUN), host of the Final Six, as the first qualifiers, while the others can take decisive steps. The most crucial clash will be played between Brescia (ITA) and OSC (HUN), the winner would almost surely book its place in the season-ending showcase to be held in Budapest (HUN).

Group A

19.00 (Tuesday) Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Spandau 04 (GER)
Though no Champions League match is expected to be an easy contest, this one might cause less headaches to Olympiacos than the one they had in the last round in Budapest, against OSC. The Greeks are unbeaten at home both in the Greek league and at the international stage and this run ought to go on as they are eyeing the top spot in the group. That will be decided perhaps only in their last home match against Szolnok, but a win now would surely send them to the Final Six. In Berlin, they won 11-6 so something similar can be expected this time, too.

Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“Our next game against German side Spandau 04 is very important for us, because if we win, we secure our place in the Final Six of Budapest, so we have to be serious in order to avoid any mistakes and win the game. Our main target is to win the forthcoming games against Spandau 04 and Olympic Nice, in order to play against Szolnok in our home for the first place in our group that gives the ticket directly for semi-finals.”

Albert Espanol, player, Olympiacos:
“The next game against Spandau has great importance for us, if we win we will qualify for the Final Six in Budapest. Spandau is a hard opponent and since the match on Tuesday will be the penultimate Champions League game in Piraeus, we are convinced that our fans will give us the required support to beat them.”

19.00 AN Brescia (ITA) v A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN)
The big match of the day, provided there is a winner at the end. The sides met twice so far in the current season and tied the matches both times (and they also had an 8-8 draw in the qualification in the previous edition…). In the second round of the qualification it ended in 11-11 in Brescia as the Italians came back from 2-6 and managed to save the match to a draw in the last second. Then, in Budapest, OSC led 4-1 but at the end they had to dig deep to equalise 43 seconds from time and the Italians were furious because of a disallowed last-grasp goal. Anyway, a win would almost surely secure the third F6 spot for either side – while the ‘usual’ tie would keep both in the hunt.

Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
„We meet OSC for the fourth time in the last two seasons after tying them in the three previous games. Hopefully this time will be different and we can earn the three points. This game is of fundamental importance as they are our direct opponent on our road to qualifying for the finals. We are ready to give it all to claim victory and we count on our fans and supporters to be with us to help achieving this win.”

Balázs Vincze, head coach, OSC:
“Our toughest and most important game of the season is coming up in Brescia. We are aware of the weight and responsibility that we have as a team, and we are ready for the challenge. We have learned our lesson from our game this Saturday against Eger. We are all healthy, and are coming with our best line-up to collect some very important points in Italy.”

Ferenc Salamon, player, OSC:
“I missed out on the last two CL matches because of some minor illness and high fever, so I’m looking forward to play again in the Champions League. We are very positive as a team about the upcoming game, even though we played a tie at home a couple of weeks ago. We know the key to play well and get a win in Brescia, and we expect to perform well, and if we do we’ll have some very good chances.”

19.30 Olympic Nice (FRA) v Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN)
Nice is yet to earn its first point in the historical first Champions League season but it’s hard to see the French earning that in this coming game. Szolnok hit devastating form last weekend, thrashing Euro Cup finalist Ferencvaros 14-2 and they are about to roll on to set up a one-on-one clash with Olympiacos for the top spot of the group. The visitors are also unbeaten in the League, in Szolnok they won 17-4, thanks to a 7-0 rush in the second period.

Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“Although the team of Nice has zero points they played very close games in their home pool. It is very important that we play very concentrated during the whole time and collect the three points.”

David Jansik, player, Szolnok:
“We have the better chances to win this encounter although it cannot mislead us that we beat them in Szolnok. They have good foreigners and also members of the French national team. It is not a mistake that they qualified for the preliminary round. We must do our best on Wednesday evening and win the game.”

1. Olympiacos 16, 2. Szolnok 16, 3. Brescia 10, 3. OSC 7, 5. Spandau 3, 6. Nice 0

Group B

19.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v ZF-Eger (HUN)
Hannover had some ups and downs, after holding title-holder Jug on a 15-15 draw in Dubrovnik they lost 10-17 to the Croats at home. They have only mathematical chance to clinch an F6 spot while Eger is in the middle of a crucial race with Barceloneta (and perhaps Jug) for the qualifying berths. For the Hungarians winning in Hannover is a must as they might jump to multiple points lead ahead of Barceloneta. Still, the German side, with fine Montenegrins in the team, can cause some hard moments to the visitors who managed to beat them 10-7 in Eger but it wasn’t a one-sided contest at all.

Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“In the past weeks we had played a couple of hard games with different results. A victory in the Champions League is still missing and we hope that we can realise that in the next games. Eger needs every point to qualify to the F6. They had to play very good, because we want to win this game, too.”

Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“Hannover demonstrated a couple of times recently, that they form a really good team. Last time it happened in Dubrovnik, it was spectacular. Nevertheless our goal is the victory of course.”

Uros Cuckovic, player, Eger:
“My compatriots, who plays in Hannover, are very good players. This shows that Montenegrin water polo is very powerful. I know them, this is an advantage. We are going to Hannover for victory, but this is possible only if we are playing better than against Barceloneta or OSC.”

Branislav Mitrovic, captain, Eger:
“If we win in Hannover, it is a big step to the Final Six for our team. It will not be an easy project, because the other teams in our group all had a difficult game in Hannover, there were a couple of interesting results. We won at home easily, but it means nothing. We know it will a hard game.”

19.00 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB)
One would say it’s going to be another easy win for Jug – they brought down Partizan with ease in mid-January (9-16) – but the title-holders had some hiccups recently. The embarrassing 15-15 draw with Hannover at home was an alerting sign but something worse came in Saturday when they lost to Partizan in the Regional League in Belgrade. In four days the two sides meet again, this time in Dubrovnik. Against Hannover the Croats proved that they didn’t commit the same mistake as they hit back in Germany with a 10-17 win and this scenario might happen in this game with Partizan. For sure, more lost points would put Jug in deep trouble.

Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“We played badly in the last two months and finally we lost against Partizan last Saturday in the Regional League. If we want to qualify to the Final 6 in Budapest, we need to play much better and I hope will do better on Wednesday.”

Xavi Garcia, player, Jug:
“We are preparing for the end of the season and we are in bad shape right now. I’m optimistic that we will play our best water polo at the right time.”

Zoran Milenkovic, head coach, Partizan:
“We defeated Jug in the Regional League last Saturday, that victory is a big success for our young team. Our target against the champions of Europe is to play at the same level as we did in Belgrade on Saturday. The points from upcoming match are more important for Jug than for us, but we will do our best. I hope that we will pass another big exam!”

19.15 Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Pro Recco (ITA)
Recco is on its was to top the group and this win would already secure their place in the Final Six. On the other hand, Barceloneta fell behind after losing to Eger and would need the points badly. In Recco it was a surprisingly close match in January – the closest one in the season for the Italians as they won 8-6 – so Barceloneta might have a slim chance to earn something in this match. If they lose and Eger wins in Hannover, the gap between them would grow to four points, a less promising scene for the Spaniards with three rounds remaining.

Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“At this moment we are out of the Final Six. There are only four matches left. We have to fight in each one and try to earn the most possible number of points. Recco is the clear favorite in this game. They are the only undefeated team in the league. It is a very difficult challenge for us but we are prepared for it.”

Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Pro Recco:
„Barceloneta is a team that plays very well and for us it will be a difficult away game like the one we played in Dubrovnik. I hope to see a good performance from my players: we trained hard in the last period, but now we’ll find again the brilliance.”

1. Recco 18, 2. Jug 11, 3. Eger 9, 4. Barceloneta 8, 5. Hannover 3, 6. Partizan 1

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28 February 2017