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Champions League, Main Round, Day 4 – Preview & Commentaries

LEN-champions-league-2017-2018-Day04-Preview

Saturday night fever: Szolnok v Recco

The first round scheduled for Saturday offers a series of thrilling matches. The absolute highlight of the day is the clash of the title-holder Szolnok (HUN) and the 8-time winner Pro Recco (ITA), featuring Olympic and world champion superstars on both sides.

Jump right to the comments from players and coaches for the upcoming games!

For live scoring, stats and play-by-play action visit www.len.eu!

Group A

In this group the battle of Jug (CRO) and Barceloneta (ESP), just as the game between OSC (HUN) and Brescia (ITA) stand out. Jug is on the rise, the Croats came up with convincing wins against Partizan and in Hannover and they are the favourites despite the Brazilian scoring machine Felipe Perrone left them in the summer and returned to his former team, the current opponent Barceloneta. The Spaniards also did a brilliant job and blew away OSC in the previous round. Last season the two sides also met, it was as close as possible, Jug won 11-10 in Dubrovnik and it was a 7-7 draw in Barcelona.

For sure, the results from last season will not predict the winner in the case of OSC and Brescia – all three games ended in a tie, 11-11 in the second round of the qualifications then 7-7 and 6-6 in the main round. While Brescia opened with a fine win against Barceloneta, they suffered a painful defeat in Hannover and at home against Olympiacos (GRE) – another loss would weaken their chances to go through. OSC got the best start in the group with two wins but they collapsed in Barcelona. Beating Eger in the local cup semis some days later showed that their game was full of ups and downs – in fact, Szolnok thrashed them in the final on the next day.

Top ranked Olympiacos can enjoy an easy cruise against the young Partizan (SRB) sidewhile a much closer battle is envisioned in Moscow. With another win Dynamo (RUS) would become a strong F8 contender, on the other hand Hannover (GER) is looking for its first ever away win in the Champions League which would put them back to the hunt.

Group B

Title-holder Szolnok and all-time best Recco will play the game of the day. The Italians are the only team in the entire field with three wins – Szolnok could have been the other one but the Hungarians were stunned in Berlin where Spandau halted the Hungarians’ 15-game unbeaten run. However, the title-holder side bounced back by winning the Hungarian Cup in the last weekend and is ready to get back onto the winning track at the international stage too.

The biggest stars of water polo play both sides, a handful of Olympic and world champion Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian and Italian players. Two years ago Szolnok won at home 12-11, taking revenge for its 14-11 loss in Recco (where the Hungarians led 0-5 but their rivals hit back). A unique fact: the Hungarians are yet to lose a home game in the Champions League: since the autumn of 2014, from when they have been playing in the prelims, they had 15 wins and one draw (last season, against Olympiacos).

Eger (HUN) faces a key encounter against newcomer Sabadell (HUN). Participants in the F6 in the last three years, the Hungarians always collected the majority of their points at home. Now they have to improve in offense as they could score 4 goals in back-to-back matches (at home against Recco, losing 4-6 and in the last round in Herceg Novi, tying with Jadran 4-4), though their defence worked well. Sabadell broke the ice with its first win ten days ago over Alphen but it requires a hell of efforts from the Spaniards to stay close to the hosts this time.

Jadran (MNE) took a great start with two wins and added a draw against Eger which makes them the favourites in Bucharest too. Newcomer Steaua lost its first three matches though meeting the two Hungarian clubs and Recco hadn’t promised too much for the Romanians in advance. This time they have some chance at last, especially playing at home.

Alphen looked a bit stronger in Sabadell despite losing its third match – now the Dutch will clash with Spandau. Considering the Germans’ fantastic win over title-holder Szolnok in the last round, Spandau is the favourite here.

 

Champions League, Day 4

Group A

17.30 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v VK Partizan Belgrade (SRB)

18.30 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v CNA Barceloneta (ESP)

19.15 Dynamo Moscow (RUS) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)

20.30 A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)

Group B

18.00 ZF Eger (HUN) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP)

18.30 Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v ZF Eger (HUN)

20.30 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE)

20.30 AZC Alphen (NED) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)

 

Insights and Commentaries for the 4nd leg of the 2017/2018 Champions league

Group A

17.30 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB)

17.30

Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB)

Previous season

Olympiacos: 6th in Final Six. Prelims: 2nd in Group A – 7W, 1D, 2L (90-63)

Partizan: Prelims: 5th in Group B – 1W, 1D, 8L (76-124)

This season

Olympiacos: Barceloneta 7-7 (away), Dynamo 17-9 (home), Brescia 7-6 (away)

Partizan: OSC 7-11 (home), 6-15 Jug (away), Dynamo 10-14 (away)

Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:

“After the away victory against Brescia we have to continue with another win in our home, against an opponent with a “young” team, that comes from one of the best schools of the world, Serbia. Partizan is one of the most historic teams in European water polo. We have to respect our rivals and also our effort, in order to show our appreciation to our fans that will surely come to support us.”

 Konstantinos Mourikis, player, Olympiacos:

“We started the competition with the aim of winning all the games in our home. The game against Partizan is very important and we want the victory. I think that we are in a very good shape, especially after the away win against Brescia. We will do our best in order to win this game and celebrate with our fans once more!”

 Stefan Ciric, head coach, Partizan:

„Olympiacos is, by my opinion, one of the favourites for the European title. Its results in the first three rounds of the Champions League and the first place in Group A aren’t surprising. Olympiacos has an excellent team, which has been built gradually from season to season. In the matches with OSC and Dynamo, we proved that Partizan could give hard tasks to strong teams. We’ll try to do that again. We don’t have problems with injuries. Our captain and goalkeeper Dimitrije Risticevic is back in the team as he recovered from an ear injury.”

18.30 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)

18.30

Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)

Previous season

Jug: 2nd in Final Six. Prelims: 3rd in Group B – 5W, 2D, 3L (115-92)

Barceloneta: Prelims: 4th in Group A – 4W, 2D, 4L (89-81)

This season

Jug: Dynamo 11-12 (away), Partizan 16-5 (home), Hannover 13-6 (away)

Barceloneta: Olympiacos 7-7 (home), Brescia 5-6 (away), OSC 12-6 (home)

Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:

“This game is a little bit different than the others because our two ex-players playing in our rival. Together with Olympiacos they are favourites in the group. The rhythm of the match will be high and I hope we will catch 3 points at the end.”

Marko Bijac, goalie, Jug:

“We cannot wait for the game start. We played many times against them in last years and all games were very tough. I think nothing will be different on Saturday.”

 Maro Jokovic, player, Jug:

“We need to find the answer for their fast and aggressive way of water polo. Xavi Garcia and me have spent the last couple of days with analysing Felipe Perrone and try to find out how to isolate him from the rest of the team.”

 Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:

“This is our second away match in the Champions League, against a very good team and they will make us very difficult to gain a win. They won the last match against Dynamo Moscow but we are about to continue our winning streak till the last match. We want to get 3 points though we know that this match it will very difficult for both teams.”

 Alberto Munarriz, player, Barceloneta:

“After the last match the team were very happy for winning against OSC. We will go to Dubrovnik with only one purpose: to get 3 points. The team is prepared to win but we know that it will very difficult.”

19.15 Dynamo Moscow (RUS) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)

19.15

Dynamo Moscow (RUS) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)

Previous season

Dynamo: newcomer

Hannover: Prelims: 6th in Group B – 0W, 3D, 7L (98-128)

This season

Hannover: Brescia 8-6 (home), 7-8 OSC (away), Jug 6-13 (home)

Dynamo: Jug 12-11 (home), 7-19 Olympiacos (away), Partizan 14-10 (away)

Marat Zakirov, head coach, Dynamo:

“Waspo demonstrated that they could play high-level games and they certainly deserve every kind of regard and respect. From our side we are ready to play on our home field and achieve a positive result.”

Igor Bychkov, player, Dynamo:

“We have a good mood within our team after our win over Partizan, it showed that we recovered after the defeat in Greece. Waspo is a very skilled team, they have a lot of great foreigners but we are ready to stage a great fight and get our points!”

Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:

“We’ll see what will happen. Dynamo has a strong team and has achieved good results, two victories. If we can play a strong game, it will be a challenge for Moscow.”

Predrag Jokic, player, Hannover:

“Dynamo is a good team, composed of members of the Russian and Serbian national teams. In the first round they showed that it would not be easy for any team to get points in Moscow. I expect a challenging match. With a consistent game in both directions, we can achieve a good result.”

Darko Brguljan, player, Hannover:

“This is a very important game for us. Our ambition is to win the first point away from Hannover. Against OSC Budapest we were close to win but we were unlucky. Dynamo is a team with six to seven national players of Russia plus three Serbian players. We demonstrate our respect, but we have a chance. I hope that we will win.”

20.30 A Hid-OSC Ujbuda (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)

20.30

A Hid-OSC Ujbuda (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)

Previous season

OSC: Prelims: 4th in Group A – 3W, 3D, 4L (79-74)

Brescia: 5th in Final Six. Prelims: 3rd in Group A – 5W, 2D, 3L (91-78)

This season

OSC: Partizan 11-7 (away), Hannover 8-7 (home), Barceloneta 6-12 (away)

Brescia: Hannover 6-8 (away), Barceloneta 6-5 (home), Olympiacos 6-7 (home)

Attila Petik, head coach, OSC:

“On Saturday we will have a very important game against the Brescia. We are ready to collect the 3 points because we want to remain around the top of the group.”

Nemanja Ubovic, player, OSC:

“Brescia is not one of the favourites in this group but one of the teams which can go all the way to the F8 in Genova this season. In the last game against Olympiacos I think that they were unlucky. They form a good team which always plays until the end. We are expecting a hard game at home, especially because in the last four games we played draws with them and we also like to break this series of ties. We had a lot of time to prepare for this game and I hope that with a good game and our supporters in our back the results will be positive for us.”

Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:

“In comparison to the last season, I think OSC has lost some quality in the offensive line and gained strength in defence. Anyway, the Hungarians still have a top level team and we have to give our best to impose an high rhythm on the game. Beyond this, it will be a great pleasure to meet our former mates, Randjelovic and Ubovic.”

 

 

Group B

18.00 ZF-Eger (HUN) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP)

19.00 *Tuesday

ZF-Eger (HUN) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP)

Previous season:

Eger: 4th in Final Six. Prelims: 2nd in Group B – 6W, 0D, 4L (78-84)

Sabadell: newcomer

This season

Eger: Steaua 8-3 (away), Recco 4-6 (home), Jadran 4-4 (away)

Sabadell: Szolnok 5-16 (home), Spandau 8-11 (away), Alphen 12-10 (home)

Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:

“This is a ‘must-win’ situation for us, but we know, these games are usually the hardest. Moreover this is the Champions League and the teams have to fight for every points in this series.”

Marko Avramovic, player, Eger:

“We are thinking only on victory. We are better team as Sabadell. We respect our opponent, but only the win is acceptable for us.”

Balint Lorincz, player, Eger:

“We had a really tiring period behind us. I hope everybody will produce a good performance on Saturday, because we have to win to forget our disappointment which we went through in the last games.”

Salvador Gomez, head coach, Sabadell:

”After the first victory in the competition the team saw how difficult it was to get all three points. We go to Eger with the intention of continuing adding experience in Europe although we know that there is a great team in our way that will make things very difficult for us.”

Gonzalo López-Escribano, player, Sabadell:

”Saturday’s game against the Eger will be complicated. It is a great team with good players who are more experienced than us in European competition. We will have to play very well in defence and try to surprise them with a fast game in attack to get something positive from the game.”

18.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v Pro Recco (ITA)

18.30

Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v Pro Recco (ITA)

Previous season:

Szolnok: Winner in Final Six. Prelims: 1st in Group A: 9W, 1D, 0L (101-62)

Recco: 3rd in Final Six. Prelims: 1st in Group B – 10W, 0D, 0L (116-63)

This season

Szolnok: Sabadell 16-5 (away), Steaua 15-3 (home), Spandau 9-10 (away)

Recco: Alphen 19-1 (home), Eger 6-4 (away), Steaua 15-6 (home)

Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:

“Recco is one of the strongest water polo teams in the world. They have a significant past in water polo, since they have been the winners of the Champions League for 8 times already. We are expecting that Recco will want to show its best in the game against the Champions League title-holder, since they also had a good chance for winning the last final, but we won. One thing is for sure: as the year is coming to an end, the players are a bit worn out, yet they will have to play with focus as all games are important for us. We are preparing for the combat against the Recco, where we will have to play with discipline and precision in order to win.”

 Tamás Mezei, player, Szolnok:

“We are expecting a tough encounter, because this game is an important one for Recco since it is in the home of the Champions League title-holder. If we show our best, we will have a chance to prove that it was not by chance that we won the Champions League last May. One thing is for sure, the game with Recco gives us an opportunity to assess our strengths. The outcome of the match will depend on the two teams’ shape on Saturday, hopefully we will be in better shape.”

 Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Recco:

“It’s a big challenge for us, we have to play with a very strong team; in the last year they have won five trophies, they are the Champions League title-holders, there is nothing else to add. Only a great team can win in Szolnok and we will try to bring three points back home, with the awareness that if defeat should come, we learn from that too.”

20.30 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE)

20.30

Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE)

Previous season

Steaua: newcomer

Jadran: did not qualify

This season

Jadran: Spandau 11-5 (home), Alphen 14-7 (away), Eger 4-4 (home)

Steaua: Eger 3-8 (home), Szolnok 3-15 (away), Recco 6-15 (away)

Nikola Murisic, player, Steaua:

“The start of the Champions League was very hard for us as we had to play against very strong opponents. Now we meet Jadran who is in good shape but we are playing in our pool in front of our supporters and will do everything to take our first points.”

 Ivan Buljubasic, player, Steaua:

“Jadran is a very disciplined and young team witch has already proved they belong to the better teams in the Champions League. We also want to do something in this competition and I think this game is our first chance to do so. It will be a hard one, but I believe we are ready and prepared for this challenge.”

 Vladimir Gojkovic, head coach, Jadran:

“It will be very difficult game in Bucharest, though we really achieved excellent results in our first three games. On the other side, Steaua had very hard first three matches and they have a very strong motive in this game. Steaua is a very good team with a lot of experienced foreigners. We hope we can play on the same level as in the previous games. If we reach that level we can get points from Bucharest.”

 Slaven Kandic, goalie, Jadran:

“After three excellent results in the first three games we will have a very difficult job against Steaua. They play at home and they are a very good team. Strong defence is our advantage and if we can produce a fine level again we can expect a positive result.”

20.30 AZC Alphen (NED) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)

20.30

AZC Alphen (NED) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)

Previous season

Alphen: newcomer

Spandau: Prelims: 5th in Group A – 2W, 1D, 7L (75-95)

This season

Alphen: Recco 1-19 (away), Jadran 7-14 (home), Sabadell 10-12 (away)

Spandau: Jadran 5-11 (away), Sabadell 11-8 (home), Szolnok 10-9 (home)

Ron van der Wild, head coach, Alphen:

“This is our first game on Saturday at home. I expect a full house. Until last week I assumed that we could play a close match against Spandau. However, their result against Szolnok was of course surprising. Maybe we can cause surprise too. I have good expectations of my team. Especially I hope that the fans will enjoy themselves.”

Jacopo Mandolini, player, Alphen:

“Last week we played a good game against Sabadell. Step by step, our team is getting more used to the high level of the Champions League. Spandau Berlin will be our opponent in our second home game. Against Jadran we could stay close for quite a long time in that game. If we can repeat that we can have a good game against Spandau.”

Petar Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:

“I do expect a very tight game. Alphen has entered the Champions League for the first time, after a straight loss against Pro Recco in the first round they did improve in round two and three. The last game against Sabadell was very tight and does show the potential of their team. After our unexpected win against Szolnok a lot of people see us as the favourite in this game, however, we have seen in our last game how much it counts being a favourite. That doesn’t win games. Every club playing the Champions League does have a good team and there are no easy wins in this competition. You have to work hard for every single point. We have to keep the concentration up during the whole game and we have to play our best water polo to have a chance for success. However, due to the win against Szolnok we have kept the theoretical chance of reaching the final eight. This will only work if we get at least one point in Alphen. So as always the next game will be the hardest and we will try to give our best.”

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