Group D of the 2024 Champions League will see encounters between two semifinalists in the previous season, Barceloneta and Vouliagmeni, then Marseille and Spandau 04.
Last season, Barceloneta won bronze ahead of Vouliagmeni (a penalty shootout decided in the third-place game), while Marseille and Spandau 04 were far from the Final Eight.
Apart from the results in the previous season, something that Barceloneta and Vouliagmeni have in common is that both teams don’t have many foreigners on the roster. Most of the key players are Spaniards and Greeks, respectively.
On the other side, Marseille and Spandau are “foreign legions.” Spandau is the club with most foreigners in this season of the Champions League. Eight non-Germans are on Spandau’s roster (plus a Croat with a German passport). Marseille has one foreign fewer.
Last season, Barceloneta and Vouliagmeni met three times, and the Spaniards emerged victorious in all three matches.
Marseille and Spandau were in the same group. Spandau beat the French in Berlin, but Marseille took revenge on home ground.
2024 Champions League, Group D
Roster: Unai Aguirre, Nic Porter (AUS) – goalkeepers, Alejandro Bustos, Miguel De Toro, Martin Famera (SVK/ESP), Marc Larumbe, Alberto Munarriz, Nikolas Paul, Luke Pavillard (AUS), Felipe Perrone, Nathan Power (AUS), Bernat Sanahuja, Roger Tahull, Ivan Domagoj Zovic (CRO), Unai Biel, Tomas Perrone, Bernat Farran, Unai Lema. Head coach: Elvis Fatovic (CRO).
Arrivals: B. Sanahuja (Sabadell), T. Perrone, U. Lema (both Barceloneta’s junior team), I.D. Zovic (Jadran Split), N. Power
Departures: D. Matkovic (Noisy-le-Sec), F. Fernandez (retired),
Key players: Felipe Perrone, Unai Aguirre, Alberto Munarriz, Alejandro Bustos, Bernat Sanahuja, Roger Tahull, Miguel De Toro, Marc Larumbe, Martin Famera…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: 3rd place; 2022: 5th place; 2021: 4th place; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 1st in Group A; 2019: 4th place.
Best results: winner (2014), 3rd place (2013, 2015, 2018, 2023)
Other European trophies: LEN Super Cup (2014)
2023 Champions League – Group A: 1st place, 39 pts (169:100). Final Eight – quarterfinals: Barceloneta – Jug 11:9, semifinals: Barceloneta – Novi Beograd 10:12 (PSO), 3rd-place match: Barceloneta – Vouliagmeni 14:13 (PSO).
The trophies in the other competitions in the 2022/23 season: the winner of the Spanish League, Spanish Cup and Spanish Super Cup.
Spain has won nine medals at the major competitions since 2018. The backbone of the Spanish national team are the players of Barceloneta. Nine Barceloneta’s aces won gold at the World Cup and bronze at the World Championships this year.
These facts tell everything about the quality and capabilities of the Spanish champion.
Barceloneta hasn’t significantly changed the team in the last few years. This summer, the club’s biggest reinforcement is a goal-getter of the national squad Bernat Sanahuja. On the eve of the new season, Barceloneta added two more players, signing leftie Ivan Domagoj Zovic and Nathan Power. The latter returns to Spain (earlier, he played for Barcelona).
Most of the players are young or at the best age. The 37-year-old club’s legend Felipe Perrone is always there to take responsibility, fix the mistakes, and make the difference when needed.
Barceloneta made a historic achievement last season, beating Pro Recco in Italy. But, in the end, it finished in 3rd place. However, Barcelona was very close to the final match but not far from 4th place, too.
The Spanish champion is one of the favorites not just for a spot in the quarterfinal round but for qualifying for the Final Four.
The Spaniards won’t have easy rivals in the group stage. Marseille or Vouliagmeni can spoil Barceloneta’s plans in its intention to win 1st place in the group. Still, it’s hard to believe the Spaniards won’t advance to the next stage.
Roster: Dejan Lazovic (MNE), Arshak Hochannysian (goalkeepers), Daniel Angyal (HUN), Michael Bodegas, Alexandre Bouet, Ugo Crousillat, Andrea De Nardi, Michael Izdinsky, Krisztian Manhercz (HUN), Roman Marion Vernoux, Mathias Olivon, Andrija Prlainovic (SRB), Vladan Spaic (MNE), Pierre-Frederic Vanpeperstraete, Alessandro Velotto (ITA), Thomas Vernoux, Ante Vukicevic (CRO) Wissem Bibi, Tom Chalinet, Septime De Bonnafos, Audoin De Reviers, Alexandre Salessy. Head coach: Milos Scepanovic (MNE).
Arrivals: Krisztian Manhercz (OSC Budapest), Daniel Angyal (OSC Budapest), Alessandro Velotto (Pro Recco).
Departures: Uros Cuckovic (retired, will be an assistant coach), Hannes Daube (Jug Dubrovnik), Mathias Mas (Strasbourg).
Key players: Ugo Crousillat, Andrija Prlainovic, Krisztian Manhercz, Danial Angyal, Ante Vukicevic, Alessandro Velotto, Thomas Vernoux, Dejan Lazovic…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: 7th place in Group B; 2022: 7th place; 2021: 8th place; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 6th in Group B; 2019: played in LEN Euro Cup (winner).
Best results: 7th place in 2022.
Trophies in other LEN competitions: LEN Euro Cup winner (2019).
2023 Champions League – Group B: 7th place, 13 pts (146:162).
Results in other competitions in the season 2022/23 – French League: 1st place, French Cup: 1st place.
Marseille stormed into the circle of the top European clubs in 2019 by winning the LEN Euro Cup. In the following season, the French were awarded the Champions League wild card. Since then, the club’s ambitions have become bigger and bigger. Marseille has signed several excellent foreign players in the last few years, but it hasn’t achieved big results. It qualified for the Champions League F8 twice but couldn’t pass a quarterfinal hurdle both times.
Seventh place in the group stage last season was disappointing, and the club turned a new sheet. It additionally reinforced the team with foreigners. Marseille signed two world champions – Krisztian Manhercz and Danial Angyal (who had joined the club before they won the gold in Fukuoka) and Alessandro Velotto, a member of the Italian national team. American Hannes Daube left the club, and the Montenegrin Uros Cuckovic retired to become an assistant coach (but his name is on the official roster for the CHL).
Despite two departures, Marseille has seven foreign players on the roster. All of them, except double Olympic champion Andrija Prlainovic, still play for their national teams. There are a lot of French national team players on the team, including Ugo Crousillat and rising star Thomas Vernoux.
The experience is the main asset of the team. There are many 30+ players in Marseille, but they still have much to say.
The second stage is attainable, but finishing in 2nd place will be challenging.
I All four teams in the group are guided by foreign head coaches. They all come from the Balkan countries: Croat Elvis Fatovic (Barceloneta), Serb Vladimir Vujasinovic (Vouliagmeni), Montenegrin Milos Scepanovic (Marseille) and Greek Anastasios Kechagias (Spandau).
Roster: Laszlo Baksa (HUN), Sebastian Andruskewicz (goalkeepers), Tyler Abramson (USA), Dusan Banicevic (MNE), Yanek Chiru, Mateo Cuk (CRO/GER), Bilal Gbadamassi (NED), Maurice Juengling, Andrei Prioteasa (ROM), Tamas Sedlmayer (HUN), Jeito Spijker, Denis Strelezkij, Marek Tkac (SVK), Marin Tomasovic (CRO), Mark Dyck, Maximilian Borovskiy. Head coach: Anastasios Kechagias (GRE).
Arrivals: Dusan Banicevic (Sabadell), Tamas Sedlmayer (Vasas), Tyler Abramson (Posillipo), Marin Tomasovic (Jadran Split)
Departures: Luca Marziali (Trieste), Roman Shepelev, Marin Restovic, Dmitri Kholod (Jadran Herceg Novi), Zoran Bozic.
Key players: Laszlo Baksa, Mateo Cuk, Dusan Banicevic, Bilal Gbadamassi, Tamas Sedlmayer, Andrei Prioteasa, Denis Strelezkij, Tyler Abramson…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: 8th place in Group A; 2022: 6th place in Group B; 2021: 5th in Group A; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 6th in Group A; 2019: 8th in Group B.
2023 – Group A: 8th place, 11 pts (129:167)
Best results: 4x winner (1983, 1986, 1987, 1989), 4x runner-up (1981, 1982, 1988,1990).
Other European trophies: 2x LEN Super Cup winner (1986 and 1987)
Results in other competitions in the season 2022/23: German champion and the finalist of the German Cup.
Marseille has seven non-French on the team. Still, the record-holder in the number of foreign players in the 2024 Champions League is Spandau, like in last season. It will have nine foreigners this season (including naturalized Mateo Cuk).
Spandau has regularly participated in the Champions League since the new format was introduced (in 2013). But, it hasn’t achieved much success. The Berliners qualified for the Final Eight just once and finished 8th (in 2018).
Several good results in the 2023 Champions League (wins over Ferencvaros and Jug, draws in the away matches against Sabadell and OSC) indicated that Spandau might return to the path of success where it was in the 1980s. But, the Germans didn’t keep momentum and finished at the bottom of the table.
This summer, a few key players (captain Dmitri Kholod and Italy’s centre-forward Luca Marziali) left the club. But, several foreigners arrived – Sedlmayer, who won the LEN Euro Cup with Vasas, Montenegro’s center-forward Banicevic, Team USA’s leftie Abramson…
At first sight, the team is of similar quality as in the last season. Spandau can cause headaches to the favorites. If the Berliners learn from the mistakes made in the previous season and avoid big ups and downs, they may be contenders for the top two spots.
Roster: Panagiotis Tzortzatos, Emmanouil Andreadis (goalkeepers), Aristeidis Chalyvopoulos, Semir Spahitc, Efstathios Kalogeropoulos, Andreas Almyras, Nemanja Ubovic (SRB), Nikolaos Papasifakis, Dylan Woodhead (USA), Nikolaos Kastrinakis, Marios Kapotsis, Nikolaos Kourovanis, Thomas Konstantopoulos, Nikolaos Aleyras, Konstantinos Belesis, Dimitrios Chatzis, Panagiotis Damdimopoulos, Vasileios Dritsas, Nikolaos Giannatos, Efsthatios Karagiannis, Athanasios Kastrinakis, Eleftherios Legakis, Christos Sapounakis, Gerasimos Spiliopoulos. Head coach: Vladimir Vujasinovic (SRB).
Arrivals: Nemanja Ubovic (Ferencvaros), Semir Spahic (Chania)
Departures: Dimitrios Nikolaidis, Ioannis Alafragkis (both Olympiacos), Charalampos Troulos (Apollon Smyrnis), Matt Farmer (retired).
Key players: Marios Kapotsis, Panagiotis Tzortzatos, Nemanja Ubovic, Efhstatios Kalogeropoulos, Dylan Woodhead, Arestidis Chalyvopoulos…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: 4th place; 2022: Qualification Round 2, 2021: Qualification Round (LEN Euro Cup semifinalist), 2020: Qualification Round 3 (LEN Euro Cup quarterfinalist), 2019: Qualification Round 3 (LEN Euro Cup quarterfinalist).
Best CHL result: 4th place (2023), quarterfinals/top 8 (1992, 1998, 1999, 2013).
2023 – Group A: 4th place, 11 pts (129:167), Final Eight – quarterfinals: Vouliagmeni – Brescia 11:10, Semifinals: Vouliagmeni – Pro Recco 8:12, 3rd-place match: Vouliagmeni – Barceloneta 13:14 (PSO).
Road to the 2024 Champions League – Group C: 1st place, 9 pts. Results: vs.Ortigia 12:8, vs. Primorje Rijeka 14:12, vs. Oradea 14:5.
Last season, Vouliagmeni returned to the Champions League Group Stage, and it did it in style. The Greek club wasn’t considered the favorite but finished in 4th place.
Vouliagmeni didn’t beat any of the favorites in the group stage (it suffered losses to Pro Recco, Olympiacos and Barceloneta). Still, it was better of the direct rivals for 4th place and secured the F8 berths. The Greeks kept the surprises for the Final Eight, where they beat Brescia and narrowly lost to Barceloneta.
After the achievements in last season, Vouliagmeni is no longer a surprise team.
Despite entering the season with a rejuvenated team, it dominantly won 1st place in the qualification group. The only two reinforcements are Serbia’s center-forward Nemanja Ubovic and young Semir Spahits (or Spahic) – an 18-year-old boy born in Greece to Montenegrin parents.
There are only a few national team players on the roster (Ubovic, Tzortzatos, Kalogeropoulos, Woodhead), but the squad is well composed and, indeed, Vouliagmeni can again play a significant role in this group if it does its best in crucial games.