Cancel your Saturday plans, because women’s European action returns this weekend for what promises to be a day of unforgettable action.
Eight scintillating water polo matches are taking place on ‘Super Saturday’, featuring four first legs of the Champions League and four second legs of the Euro Cup. Much is still to be settled, and while no-one knows how each of the pulse-pounding matchups will finish, one thing is for sure – this Saturday could be one for the books.
While the Champions League games are the more prestigious, with two games apiece taking place in Greece and Spain, there is certainly a bit more jeopardy this weekend in the Euro Cup. At the end of the night, after thirty-two minutes (and potentially penalties), we will know the names of the four semi-finalists.
To whet your appetite, we present a sneak peek into what promises to be one of the most electrifying days on the women’s water polo calendar.
Women’s Champions League Quarter Finals, 1st leg
At the top of a mouth-watering Champions League quarterfinal bill is Olympiacos’ clash with Mataro.
Aleksandar Ciric’s reigning champions have ruled with an iron fist this season; the Red-Whites are unbeaten in all competitions, and having already won two pieces of silverware—the LEN Supercup and the Greek Cup—they look quite untouchable.
But despite the concrete-thick depth in Olympiacos’ squad, Mataro can boast an equally impressive starting seven, and, coming off the back of an excellent win at Sabadell, Dani Ballart will be optimistic that his side can really take the game to the reigning champions.
The Mataro head coach told Total Waterpolo, “Our growth has been exponential as the season has gone on.” He added, “I’m pretty sure that we will offer a great show for everyone with a quality level of play and emotion until the end”.
The important thing for the Spaniards will be to just stay in the tie and keep the game alive for the return leg. But that’s easier said than done, and they wouldn’t be the first team to be swept away at the hands of the Greek goddesses.
At the same time on Saturday, Glyfada invites Europe’s most successful club team, Ekipe Orizzonte, to the Aegean coast.
The road to this stage of the competition was anything but easy for both teams. Ekipe, the eight-time champions, qualified at the expense of their rivals Plebiscito, while Glyfada outmatched two high-profile teams, UVSE and Ethnikos, to secure their quarterfinal berth.
Neither side has been particularly impressive on the big occasions so far this season, so this duel, between two evenly matched sides, could throw up some entertainment.
Spain also hosts two champions league matches on Super Saturday.
The showdown between Sabadell, the reigning champions of the Division de Honor, and Roma, leaders of the A1, is a match worthy of the grandest stage. Both teams boast an attacking prowess that is second to none, but when it comes to titles, they are worlds apart.
Sabadell, the 19-time Spanish champions and owners of five Euro League trophies, are a true powerhouse in European water polo. Roma, while impressive with their two Coppa Italia wins, including their recent triumph last season, cannot match the pedigree of their opponents. This one difference, though small, could make all the difference in this game between two top-notch rosters.
Sabadell’s track record speaks for itself; their star-studded lineup has only missed the final three times in the last twelve years, claiming the trophy on five of those trips. Roma faces one of their toughest challenges of the season, taking on a team that boasts Olympic medalists, World Champions, and European Champions.
But this year, SIS Roma has achieved something no other European team has managed in the past two years: they took on Olympiacos and emerged undefeated. This is no small feat, especially when considering their opponents’ loss to the same team in last season’s Euro League final.
The Roma head coach, Marco Capanna, gives his view before the game:
“We’ve been working hard to improve and get a winning mentality. Sabadell is a strong team with quality in every role. It’s a fascinating challenge and our qualities will show in this match. Let’s focus on one game at a time and each action. It’ll be a long and exciting game, I have faith in my players.”
The game is guaranteed to be a cloak and dagger clash, and statistically, it should guarantee goals. Sabadell has racked up a scoring average of 19 goals a game so far this season (267 goals in fourteen games), while Roma have averaged seventeen goals a game in their thirteen league games so far this term.
And lastly, Mediterrani and Dunaujvaros have both defied expectations and now stand tall as quarter-finalists, ready to battle it out for a final-4 berth.
Mediterrani spent the summer upgrading their squad, and ruled supreme in Budapest, topping their preliminary group. Marian Diaz’s team are gearing up for what could be a historic run, as they aim of reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1997.
Dunaujvaros, on the other hand, faced challenges with key departures but still managed to rise above it all and leave their mark on the competition. The two-time runners-up, left their opponents in awe with their flawless performance in the group stage, remaining unbeaten against two Italian powerhouses, Ekipe and Plebiscito.
The DFVE boss, Attila Mihok, knows what a great opportunity his home-grown side has to make the semi-finals:
“It is a great pleasure for us that we are among the top eight with such a young team composed of our own players. It’s been a tough road so far. We know that our opponent is a very strong team, but now everyone feels that it is possible to do another miracle and we want to win. We want to show that you can get close to the top by raising your own players…”
Champions League Schedule (CET)
13:00 – Astralpool Sabadell vs SIS Roma
14:00 – CE Mediterrani vs Dunaujvaros
16:30 – Olympiacos vs CN Mataro
18:30 – ANO Glyfada vs Ekipe Orizzonte
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Women’s Euro Cup Quarter Finals, 2nd legs
There was nothing to separate UVSE and Ethnikos after thirty-two minutes at Alfred Hajos, (10-10) and arguably the Greeks should have come away with more than that. On the other hand, Ujpest will be both relieved they are still in the tie, but also tentative that they don’t have a cushion to fall back onto after their home leg.
The reigning Hungarian champions at long last appear to be coming out of their horrible patch of form, but you can’t help but think that an away victory in Piraeus could be a step too far for his young side. The UVSE coach, however, believes his team has what it takes to come away from Piraeus with a win:
“Of course, the home ground will favour Ethnikos, but we’ve experienced many similar matches and we’ll go prepared knowing what to expect. It will be an excellent match in a fantastic pool, presumably in front of a great crowd.”
Progressing to the semi-finals of this competition could be the stim-shot that UVSE craves. Both teams have had underwhelming seasons so far, so everything is at stake in this clash. Watch this space…
Although Terrassa will be spirited on their travels to Budapest with a slender two-goal cushion over Ferencvaros, they will have to play a near-perfect game, particularly in defence, against Hungary’s form side. The electric atmosphere two weeks ago certainly gave Terrassa a boost in the first leg, but the Spaniards won’t be able to rely on that this weekend. In fact, they will likely have to deal with an incredibly hostile atmosphere when playing at Nepliget. Fradi will need to come out on the front foot, but if Xavi Perez’s side can outrun the storm, it will make for a gripping tactical battle.
Don’t underestimate what this game means to either side. FTC, having claimed their first piece of silverware, are hungry for more. Meanwhile, with things in the Spanish League looking uncertain for Terrassa, this competition is their last-ditch attempt to make their season a success.
Many perhaps expected that Plebiscito would be in a stronger position after their first leg at home, but they still have much work to do to see off a tenacious Lille side. When the two teams met back in October in a friendly, Plebiscito demolished Lille 11-3. The gap between the sides is now just two scores, highlighting a journey of development that Anestis Pesmatzoglou’s team has undertaken this season. The Plebiscito coach, Stefano Posterivo, admitted that his side will have to play much better if they want to progress to the semi-finals:
“Lille played a good game, certainly better than we did. We know we will have to play much better than what we showed in Padova. We have the desire and ambition in the Euro Cup, so I am sure the girls will give everything they have to achieve qualification”
The Italians though – masters of a frustrating defensive set-up – are still favourites to go through, but if the hosts turn up, a surprise could be on the cards at Marx Dormoy.
And finally, it was Vouliagmeni that accrued the largest cushion after the first leg (15-12). They were the better team than Eger in the first meeting, but will acknowledge that they were slightly fortunate to carry a three-goal advantage into game two. However, it looks like a tough ask now for Eger to recover that lost ground, but there is no doubt they have the players in their squad to find the goals they need in the return fixture. Eger will hope they can pull off a memorable comeback, but Vouliagmeni has the upper hand going into this one.
Euro Cup Schedule (CET)
12:30 – LUC Metropole (10) vs (12) Plebiscito Padova
14:00 – Ethnikos (10) vs (10) UVSE
16:30 – FTC Telekom (7) vs (9) CN Terrassa
18:30 – ZF Eger (12) vs (15) NC Vouliagmeni
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