If you still haven’t realized how this water polo season “crazy” is, the upcoming weekend will make it clear to you.
The season in the LEN competitions started on September 7 with the first matches of the Men’s Champions League qualifications. Only four weeks later, the 2nd round of the Champions League is on the program.
But that isn’t all regarding the international matches. The Group Phase of the Euro Cup is set to start tomorrow (less than two weeks after the qualifications for this competition), and with it, there will be 16 games of the LEN men’s cups in the next three days. Additionally, this week marks the beginning of the women’s Champions League and the Euro Cup.
Several clubs that started the season in the Champions League qualifications and reached the Euro Cup Group Stage have played eight games on the international stage since September 7. But, there is no time for a rest. Until early December, there will be a lot of action all over Europe – five more rounds in the Champions League Main Stage and six in the LEN Euro Cup Group Phase.
2024 LEN Champions League, Day 2, Preview
The 2nd round of the Champions League brings the encounters between the four teams that were in the first pot of the draw (the top 4 in the LEN Clubs’ Ranking List) and four qualifiers.
Those matches are under the spotlight this week because most of the qualifiers are stronger teams than some clubs that entered the Champions League with wild cards.
The big game in Group A is the clash of Brescia and Novi Beograd. Brescia hasn’t shined in the past few weeks. Even though it had a terrible shot percentage (5/25), it earned two points in Sabadell ten days ago. Yesterday, it lost to Savona in Serie A1. Novi Beograd has been dominant in all games this season. However, Brescia will be the first demanding task for the Serbian champion this season. These two clubs are the strongest contenders for the top spot in the group.
Brescia and Novi Beograd have played each other five times in the past two seasons. Brescia won the last duel, played in Italy in April. Before that, Novi Beograd won three matches, and one encounter ended in a draw. .
Novi Beograd’s ace Angelos Vlachopoulos, who arrived in Belgrade two years ago from Brescia, says:
Brescia is a very good team. We know how they play. They are fast and aggressive and have a great rhythm throughout the game. However, we are fully prepared for everything that awaits us. We have to do our best to take three points, which will be important.
After a 7:19 loss to Novi Beograd in the opening round, Steaua welcomes Sabadell, hoping it can earn the first point(s) this season, but the Spaniards are the favorites.
Find out more about the teams in Group A
Reigning champion’s chance for revenge in Dubrovnik
Pro Recco, the reigning champion, is set to play against Jug in Dubrovnik in Group B, hoping to collect some old debts.
The two teams haven’t faced each other since the 2021-22 season, where Jug emerged victorious in Dubrovnik with an 11:8 win. Pro Recco didn’t have an opportunity to take revenge as Jug couldn’t travel to Italy for the match in the second half of the season due to Covid cases in the team (Pro Recco got the points with a technical 10:0 score).
In the past decade, Pro Recco played four games against Jug in the “Gruz” pool and celebrated only one win (Jug won two matches, and one encounter ended in a draw). That was in the 2016/17 season (11:8). Sandro Sukno, the current coach of Pro Recco, played for the visiting team then. However, Jug stopped Pro Recco in the semifinals a few months after the encounter in Dubrovnik.
Jug has been performing exceptionally well in the last several weeks, but wasted an opportunity to beat Olympiacos in Piraeus due to a few cheap mistakes.
Sandro Sukno, who started his career at Jug, has great respect for the opponent:
It is an important match but, in any case, not decisive. We will play on a “warm pitch”, where Jug gets excited and certainly plays better than when it goes away. It’s a well-organized team. The match will be difficult. Jug has already played ten games, and we have had three this season, and not at a very high level. Anyway, there are no excuses: we have trained well, analyzed them and will go there to win.
Olympiacos can’t count on injured Marton Vamos in the match against Dinamo in Tbilisi, but the hosts have slim chances in this match.
Find out more about the teams in Group B
Champions League arrives in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The second round in Group C brings an encounter between two former European champions, Crvena Zvezda and Ferencvaros, in Belgrade. The favorite is the Hungarian champion, with plenty of superstars on the team. Crvena Zvezda, which has played very well since the start of the Champions League qualifications, has nothing to lose. That fact and the home field are the Serbs’ advantage.
Two namesakes, Jadran Herceg Novi and Jadran Split, will face off in Trebinje, the city in the Serbian entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Montenegrins can’t play international matches in their town because the indoor pool in Herceg Novi has been closed since 2021 when the roof collapsed. They picked Trebinje, located 40 km from Herceg Novi, as their home field in the Champions League this season. They are expected to have strong support from the stands, like in Herceg Novi. Both teams have realistic chances to win in this game.
Find out more about the teams in Group C
Last but not least, the encounter between the qualifier and the team from the Top 4 in the LEN’s list will be played in Athens in Group D. It will be a replay of the bronze-medal match in the 2023 Final Eight, Vouliagmeni – Barceloneta. The Spaniards won bronze in Belgrade after beating the Greeks in a shootout (14:13). The two teams met twice in the group stage last season, and Barcelona won 6 points in these encounters (11:7 in Athens and 13:6 in Barcelona). The Spanish champion goes to Athens to win three points again. However, a rejuvenated team of Vouliagmeni, without a few players who were the team’s pillars in the last season, has shown it had potential. Barceloneta can’t expect a leisurely cruise.
Marseille, which beat Vouliagmeni on Day 1, will visit Berlin to play against Spandau. If the French take three points in this match, they will make a big step towards the quarterfinal stage.
Find out more about the teams in Group D
Group A, October 6
Brescia – Novi Beograd (20:30), Steaua – Sabadell (18:30 – 17:30 CET)
Standings: 1. Novi Beograd 3, 2. Brescia 2, 3. Sabadell 1, 4. Steaua 0.
Group B. October 6:
Jug AO – Pro Recco (19:00), Dinamo Tbilisi – Olympiacos (19:00 – 17:00 CET)
Standings: 1. Pro Recco 3, 2. Olympiacos 2, 3. Jug 1, 4. Dinamo 0.
Group C, October 7
Crvena Zvezda – Ferencvaros (20:00), Jadran Herceg Novi – Jadran Split (19:00)
Standings: 1. Jadran S 3, 2. Ferencvaros 3, 3. Jadran HN 0, 4. Crvena Zvezda 0.
Group D, October 7
Vouliagmeni – Barceloneta (19:00 – 18:00 CET), Spandau 04 – Marseille (19:30)
Standings: 1. Barceloneta 3, 2. Marseille 3, 3. Vouliagmeni 0, 4. Spandau 04 0.
LEN Euro Cup Group Phase, Day 1, Preview
The matches of the first round of the Euro Cup Group Phase will be played in three days, starting from tomorrow.
The schedule is composed so that the teams that finished atop the qualification groups will face each other already in the first round.
Almost all encounters will be derbies and unpredictable, but, without any doubt, an all-Hungarian battle is the highlight of the round.
Honved will welcome the title holder, Vasas. This will be the first encounter between the two teams, which have great tradition, this season. They fought fierce battles in the last season.
Vasas and Honved met five times in the 2023 Hungarian Championships. The visiting team won in each of the five games. The last encounter between the two Budapest-based teams in the 2022-23 season was the third match of the 3rd-place playoffs. Honved defeated Vasas in a penalty shootout, won third place, and earned a spot in the Champions League qualifications.
Honved failed to qualify for the Champions League. Playing in the CHL qualifications may have been a burden rather than a benefit for the team coached by Marton Szivos. The team has played 17 matches since the start of the season in Hungary (in mid-August). Vasas has also been busy during the same period but has played three matches fewer.
After the 2023 LEN Euro Cup victory, Vasas lost some key players, such as goalkeeper Mitrovic, Brguljan, and Nagaev. However, they have managed to form a powerful team with reinforcements like Levai, S.Rasovic, Burian, and Dedovic under the leadership of head coach Slobodan Nikic. Honved, on the other hand, has added left-handed Viktor Vadovics to their team, but the Ekler brothers (Bendeguz and Zsombor) have been their star performers this season, having scored 34 of the team’s 56 goals in the LEN Euro Cup qualifications in Athens.
The other highlights scheduled for Day 1, are the encounters between Sabac and Primorje, Telimar and Barcelona, Primorac and Trieste,. Savona, the finalist in the previous edition of the LEN Euro Cup, travels to Athens to face Apollon, the winner of the first-ever LEN Challenger Cup.
Group C: Sabac – Primorje (20:15), BVSC – Waspo 98 Hannover (19:00)
Group A: Solaris – Tourcoing (19:00)
Group B:Honved – Vasas (19:00), Apollon Smyrnis – Savona (15:30 – 14:30 CET)
Group D: Ortigia – Panionios (15:00), Primorac – Trieste (18:00).
Group A: Telimar – Barcelona (11:00)
The full schedule of the LEN Euro Cup – HERE