Champions League, Prelims, Day 10 – Preview
Brescia or OSC to join the Final Six
Two Italians or three Hungarians – this is at stake on the final day of the prelims in the Champions League. Brescia has a better chance to join fellow Italian side Recco but OSC Budapest will also have a shot to achieve a unique triple, to see all three Hungarian participants in the Final Six, to be staged in the Hungarian capital. The other big clash featuring Eger and Jug in Group B is going for the second place and a seemingly easier QF match-up in the F6.
18.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
One of the two scenes, where big drama can unfold. Brescia and OSC run for the last available spot, the Italians holds a two-point advantage, play at home so they surely have more chance to return to the Final Six after 2014. However, playing against Olympiacos is never easy, even if there is nothing at stake for the Greeks in this game. Whatever is the outcome of this encounter, they will stay in the second place, still, they are desperate to go for a win in Brescia. The Italians will surely keep on eye on the Hungarian duel, a loss against Olympiacos would open the door for OSC, in case of a tie in Brescia, OSC would need a 4-goal win in Szolnok to have a better goal-difference (as the two sides settled for draws in both matches played against each other).
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
„For us this is once again a decisive game requiring us of doing everything possible for the win. We know Olympiacos very well: they are strong in every position and they are one of the favourites to win the title. Even if they have already qualified, they will undoubtedly play to win as well. This means we must play at our highest level, as reaching the finals is our principle objective.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“This is the last match we will play for the LEN Champions League group stage. Although it is less important for us, we will fight as always with the aim of winning, as we have done in all the away games we had this season. In a match which is the best test for any team, in view of the quarter-final we will play in the Final6 of Budapest and with respect to our history and the expectations, we have from our team this year and of course the opponent, we will fight for the victory against Brescia!”
Giannis Fountoulis, player, Olympiacos:
“After all, this is a pointless game, since we are locked to the second position of the group. On the other hand we are at a time when the finals of the championship and the cup are coming, as well as the Final 6 and this is probably the last occasion to play with a competitive opponent, which makes us approaching this match with extreme severity. We have only goal and that is to win this match!”
18.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v OSC Budapest (HUN)
This is an extension of the series the two sides played in the domestic league’s semi-finals. Contrary to the expectations, OSC caused big head-aches to Szolnok in the three matches but at the end the title-holder prevailed. OSC even led in the last period of the decisive match in Szolnok before the hosts managed to turn the cards. Though the match didn’t have the same dramatic end as the two sides’ first Champions League clash on the opening day when Marton Vamos had won the match for Szolnok in the last second in Budapest. This time the game is going to be different, Szolnok has already secured the top spot in the group, the result doesn’t count for them on Wednesday. In the meantime, OSC tries to grab its slim chance to reach the Final Six but beside a win in Szolnok they also need Brescia’s loss to Olympiacos.
Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“We are first in our group but this cannot mislead us. We have to play hard if we want to win this encounter. The domestic final starts on May 1 so the players who spent less time in the water in the past games can play and prove that the team can count on them as well.”
Tamas Mezei, player, Szolnok:
“In the past three years the Szolnok v OSC games always have a great prestige value. OSC will probably play very hard, it will be a game of fight. For us it will be a great opportunity to get ready for the upcoming playoff game against Eger.”
Laszlo Toth, head coach, OSC:
“We are playing Szolnok again, as we played our last three matches of Hungarian Championship’s semi-final against them. We had won one, but all three games were really close. Our performance improved by each game, and although our faith is not in our hands now in the Champions League, we will do everything to make sure that should everything come together for us, we could be in a good position. I think it is important that all the games are played at the same time in the final round. We also have to play hard to get ready for the playoff series for the bronze medal against the Euro Cup winning team of Ferencvaros.”
Miklos Gor-Nagy, player, OSC:
“We are very familiar with the pool of Szolnok, as we have played against them in our last three games. But it is a different competition now, and we only need just one good match to be able to advance into the Final Six. Our team is on the rise, as our recent matches showed, everyday we are getting more familiar with the expectations of our new coach, and our play mirrors that. Hopefully we can have a strong match and get a point or points from Szolnok.”
19.30 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Olympic Nice (FRA)
Spandau is still without a win at home so the Germans surely wants to leave their pool with heads held high. They managed to win in Nice on the opening day so they are the favourites in the rematch. On the other side the French are still seeking their first point in the prelims and surely would do everything in order not to finish their historical first season in the League with a 0 for 10 ratio.
Marco Stamm, player, Spandau:
„In any case, we want to win the first home match of the Champions League this season. Therefore, we will do our very best to rise from the water.”
Peter Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:
“There is no such thing as an easy game in the Champions League. Even if we enter the match as the favourites, it will be a very close match. Nice performed very well in Budapest and that is why we must go into this match with 100% focus to have a chance for three points.”
1. Szolnok 25, 2. Olympiacos 22, 3. Brescia 14, 3. OSC 12, 5. Spandau 4, 6. Nice 0
18.30 Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) v Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
A fine farewell is at stake for both sides. Partizan left the race earlier while Barceloneta bowed out on the previous day. Interestingly, the Spaniards played in the Final Four for the first time in 2013, that happened here in Belgrade and it was followed by three more F6 appearances. Now their Champions League march will end in the same pool (the famous Banica) and it’s going to be a tough finish as the young Serbs would surely want to present their enthusiastic fans with a win.
Stefan Ciric, head coach, Partizan:
“Barceloneta is a club belonging to the European top for years. They have a quality team, which plays in a high rhythm throughout the game, building plenty of counter-attacks. Barceloneta has a lot of excellent players, such as the Rasovic brothers, Mallarach, Munarriz… We have reached a good shape, and we have a lot of motives. Our desire is to provide strong resistance, make the match uncertain and – why not? – try to win. If we manage to play a good game, our young team would get a lot of self-confidence, which we need before the end of the national championship of Serbia.”
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“This is our last game this year and we want to win and prepare well for the play of our national league. Partizan is a very young team of great quality and we have to do things very well if we want to get the 3 points in a difficult pool.”
19.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Pro Recco (ITA)
A seemingly easy ride for Recco, the only target is another 30-pointer season for the Italians and they can collect the last three points in the prelims. Though Hannover is capable of causing problems even for the best ones, just remember their fantastic match played in Dubrovnik.
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“Recco is Recco, we hope to realise a focused game…”
Predrag Jokic, player, Hannover:
“Pro Recco has already proved that this club is the favourite to win the Champions League. We need to play a good and tensionless match.
Aleksandar Radovic, player, Hannover:
“There is nothing new to say about Recco, it is still the best team in the world. I hope that we can show that we know our business and play the best way possible, in order to finish the first WASPO98 Champions League season in a good way!”
Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Pro Recco:
„It’s a game that doesn’t count for the ranking, but is Champions League so both teams will try to give the best. I expect to see my squad playing well.”
20.30 ZF Eger (HUN) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
The big match of the day, also the rematch of last season’s quarter-final. Jug beat Eger in Budapest, then the eventual winner downed the Hungarians 10-6 on the opening day of the prelims in Dubrovnik, too. Since then both sides had a couple of ups and downs but at the end they secured their respective berths in the Final Six once more. However, there is a lot to fight for in this closing contest as a win would put Eger ahead of the Croats. The loser of this match (a tie would favour Jug) will meet Olympiacos in the quarters in May (and in a possible semi-final match with Recco), a less promising scenario than to clash with either Brescia or OSC in the other quarter-final. It’s going to be a tremendous clash, a worthy ending of this season’s preliminary round.
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach Eger:
“We will fight not only for the second position, as this is a match of prestige. We play against the title-holder of the Champions League. It would be a nice victory to beat them.”
Branislav Mitrovic, goalie, Eger:
“Dubrovnik is a very great team, this is the first thing coming to my mind about them. Not only in this season, they have been among the elite teams over the past 10 years. They are the defending champions, they are very strong. If we win on Wednesday, we will be in an easier situation in the Final Six. We want to win, and not only in this round.”
Adam Decker, player, Eger:
“We were beaten by Jug in Dubrovnik, but I think we had a chance. We need to clinch the second place in the group and we will make it! Our team is ready, we are thinking only on this match.”
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“Eger plays at home in front of their spectators and we know that a tough match is ahead of us. But we have our way and we will try to do our best to achieve a positive result.”
Marko Macan, player, Jug:
“We know that this game gives us the opportunity to have an ‚easier‘ quarter-final opponent so we will do our best in this game to keep the second position in the group.”
1. Recco 27, 2. Jug 17, 3. Eger 15, 4. Barceloneta 11, 6. Partizan 4, 5. Hannover 3
For play-by-play action and detailed stats, visit the LEN website (www.len.eu).
25 April 2017