Champions League, Prelims, Day 9 – Preview
Olympiacos and Szolnok clash for the top spot
The big day has come in Group A when Olympiacos (GRE) and Szolnok (HUN) will have a showdown for the top spot (and a direct qualification for the semis) in Group A. The other group might see the last available qualifying spot being decided if Eger (HUN) beats Partizan (SRB).
17.30 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN)
The big match of the day, deciding the top spot. Well, in case one of the teams manages to win the game, as a draw would mean the goal difference might determine the first place at the end. And the draw is very much in the cards since their encounter in Szolnok ended in a hard-fought 5-5 tie. That was Olympiacos’s only match in the entire season they didn’t win. The Greeks triumphed in all other clashes in all competitions. Szolnok had some ups and downs during the season, they lost their last domestic match to Eger last weekend, however, they are going for a win in Piraeus as they also want the direct qualification to the semis. This is a great challenge as Olympiacos hasn’t lost a single game at home in the last two years and they beat Szolnok in the semis in last May in the Final Four in an unforgettable clash, decided by a last-grasp goal by the Greeks.
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach:
“On Wednesday the fans will see a great game between two of the best teams in Europe. I am confident that we will have a great game in order to achieve a great victory. We have the necessary self-confidence and faith in the potential of our team. The fans that will come to support us will be pleased, they will have the opportunity to watch a high level water polo game.”
Manolis Mylonakis, player, Olympiacos:
“The game against Szolnok will decide the first place of the group, which means that the first team will go straight to the semi-final. I think we will be in good shape as a team so with the help of our fans we will win this game. We are expecting them to be an extra player for us in this difficult game.”
Sándor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“It is a very interesting situation since in this season it seems that this is first match where not we are the favourites in a coming match. It will be a very difficult encounter for us. The Greek team is an excellent team with world famous players, certainly we must do our best and solve this situation.”
Gábor Kis, player, Szolnok:
“It will be a very tough game. Olympiacos is a very strong team with great players. Still, we must do our best and win this encounter in order to get first place in our group.”
19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v AN Brescia (ITA)
Spandau showed in the last round that they were capable of causing an upset when the other side plays under pressure. By stealing a valuable point from OSC they sent the Hungarians to the brink of elimination, however, another unexpected result against Brescia would mean that the duel between OSC and Brescia would restart. Brescia is aware of the dangers waiting for the team in Berlin: any other result than a win would put them in a difficult situation. Back in last autumn they had some struggles before overcoming the Germans and winning 9-6.
Peter Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:
“Of course, Brescia is the favourite. However, Brescia does have the pressure as they do have a very good chance to reach the Final Six. I want to see a good and highly motivated Spandau team. Probably we have the chance to keep one point in Berlin – or even more.”
Luuk Gielen, player, Spandau:
“Even we don’t have a chance anymore to qualify for the Final Six, this game is still important for us as we are preparing for the playoffs in the national league. We performed well the last games and we want to continue with that.”
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
„For us this is a crucial game. A win will give us 3 points and allow us to retain the 3rd place in the standings. In Brescia we won against Spandau even though we did not play at our full potential. By now the Germans have improved and if we want to prevail we must play better than we did in the home game.”
20.15 A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v Olympic Nice (FRA)
After a couple of embarrassing results including the tie against Spandau and a loss to a low-key side in the domestic league, the Hungarian club opted for a change in the head-coach’s position. The new boss, Laszlo Toth, a former national team player and the assistant coach of the European champion women’s team faces a hard task, though a home game against Nice is perhaps the best occasion for a coaching premier in the Champions League. The win is a must but the decision will go down to the last round in the hunt for the third spot in the group.
Laszlo Toth, head coach, OSC:
“This will be my second match with OSC, and I look forward to it very much! I think the team learned a lesson with the draw against Spandau: we need to prove every time that we are the better team. Hopefully we’ll be 100% focused, and make sure that we realise the odds in the pool.”
Bence Batori, player, OSC:
“We would like to play as good as possible, and prove that we are a good team. Laci, our new coach has only had one game with us (a win against Ferencvaros), but with each practice, we understand more of what he wants and expects from us!”
1. Szolnok 22 (85-50), 2. Olympiacos 22 (76-44), 3. Brescia 11, 3. OSC 9, 5. Spandau 4, 6. Nice 0
19.00 ZF Eger (HUN) v Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB)
Eger enjoyed a brilliant rehearsal in the home league as they beat title-holder Szolnok at home. The 8-5 win came after an outstanding performance by goalie Branislav Mitrovic – the Serbian Olympic champion might play an important role against his compatriots, too. In fact, this is a must-win match for the Hungarian side, in case they deliver they secure their place in the Final Six on the third consecutive occasion. Partizan earned a fine win over Hannover in the last round and the young Serbs will have no pressure while playing in Eger which can create a thrilling match (as it happened in Belgrade where Eger scored the winner 58 seconds from time for 8-9). Still, the hosts are the clear favourites.
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“Final Six! Final Six! Final Six! This is on my mind. Don’t need to say anything else. After the game against Szolnok, I tell it over and over again for the players also.”
Adam Decker, player, Eger:
“We are not playing for the Final Six, we want to take the second place in our group. For this goal, we need to defeat Partizan Belgrade. This is not an easy mission, because they have a good, strong and young team.”
Balint Lorincz, player, Eger:
“I’m not thinking about the second place. First of all we need to qualify for the Final Six. This Partizan Belgrade can do anything. Their players are young, but by today they learned the ‘Serbian school’. The mood in Eger is very good now, because we won against Szolnok on Saturday. We can increase this mood on Wednesday, we want to present our fans again.”
19.15 Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
Barceloneta needs a failure from Eger, perhaps two, as the Hungarians play their last two matches at home. The gap is four points now and Eger’s win over Partizan would close down the contest. Barceloneta cannot do anything but try to win the remaining matches which doesn’t seem too challenging. Beating Hannover is not an easy task but solvable, also to win in Belgrade on Day 10. However, last year the Spaniards left points in Hannover (it was 9-9), actually those points are missing now and that result is alerting the hosts now not to underestimate the Germans.
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“There are two rounds left to complete this preliminary round and the classification for the Final Six seems complicated for us. The objective of the team is to win these two games to take advantage of Eger’s mistake provided they commit one. Furthermore, we have to prepare for the national league playoffs due in May. We hope to earn a victory and dedicate it to our supporters.”
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“We have a mixed history in the current season. There were strong games and also disappointments in the past. Now it´s time for a success…”
Pere Estrany, player, Hannover:
“Very tough team. Barceloneta is a team with lot of experience in games like this. They have a disciplined and very engaged style to play by swimming a lot. When we will keep cool and collected, we will have chances to win this game.”
Jörn Winkelhorst, player, Hannover:
“It will be a tough game against Barceloneta. For each team it is difficult to beat them in their home pool. It is a complete team which plays well as one team and additionally with a few strong individuals. We are travelling to Barcelona to play a great game.”
20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
Recco handed a heavy defeat to Jug on Day 2, as a kind of revenge for the loss in the semis in last year’s Final Six. They were 5-10 up before the last period before settling for an 8-11 win. Recco has been unbeatable this season so far, won all their matches in every competition and they already secured the top spot in Group B. Still, they will surely go for another victory which would set up a tough scenario for Jug as the Croats might face a cruel match in Eger on Day 10 for the second place in the group. Jug will miss their head coach Vjekoslav Kobescak in the coming encounter as he was suspended because of a red card in the game against Barceloneta in the previous round.
Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Recco:
„Doesn’t count for the ranking, but with Jug Dubrovnik the game cannot be compared to any other. Certainly it will be a good test, useful to understand our condition: in May, at Final Six in Budapest, Jug will fight with us for the Cup. They are the European Champions, but in this match they don’t start as favorites because we play at home, in front of our supporters“.
Pietro Figlioli, captain, Recco:
„An important match for us against a strong team that will make life tough. We play in Genoa, a fantastic atmosphere which gives us more energy every time.”
Ognjen Krzic, assistant coach, Jug:
￼”In most of the games in this season we were the favourites. This time Pro Recco is favourite and that gives us chance to play without any pressure. We are in good shape this moment so I expect a competitive match.”
Marko Bijac, goalie, Jug:
“After a successful Final 4 of Regional League we are going to Genova without any pressure. Of course, we will try to do our best against the great favourite of this competition.”
1. Recco 24, 2. Jug 17, 3. Eger 12, 4. Barceloneta 8, 6. Partizan 4, 5. Hannover 3
For play-by-play action and detailed stats, visit the LEN website (www.len.eu).
4 April 2017