One month and a few days are left until the culmination of the clubs’ season and the Champions League Final Eight in Belgrade (May 31 – June 2).
But, as the final tournament is near, the number of highlighted matches in the group stage is decreasing. The competition format, the results, and the schedule in the first 11 rounds impacted that.
This week, the games of Day 12 will be played. There are not many derby games, because almost half of the 16 teams are out of the race for the Final Eight. They will play for pride until the end of the group phase. However, the fact these teams are without any pressure might help them surprise the favorites.
This week’s highlight is a clash between Jug and Novi Beograd. This is one of a few matches of Round 12 in which both teams need points to reach their goals. An encounter between Sabadell and Brescia is essential for both teams, like the duel in Dubrovnik.
In most other games, only one of the rivals is a contender for the Final Eight. However, that doesn’t mean all these matches will be one-sided contests.
2022/23 Champions League Day 11, Preview
Group A (Tuesday, April 25)
The big derby, Jug – Novi Beograd, will be the second duel between the Croatian and Serbian champions in a short period. Exactly a month ago, they met in the semifinals of the Regional League in Belgrade. The game ended in an 11:11 draw. Jug won in a penalty shootout and gained momentum that has kept. A day after, Jug beat Jadran in the final (also after a shootout). Then, it earned a valuable point against Ferencvaros and cruised to the final of the Croatian League. Jug’s great run ended on Saturday with a narrow loss to Jadran in the first match of the playoffs’ final.
The defeat in the Regional League semifinals caused an earthquake in Novi Beograd. Captain Dusan Mandic has been out of the team since then. The club lost to Brescia and minimized its chances of entering the Final Eight from 1st place in the group.
Still, the top spot is attainable if leader Brescia wins less than six points in the remaining three matches (against Sabadell, Ferencvaros and Jug). Regardless of Brescia’s results, Novi Beograd needs points in Dubrovnik to keep 2nd place. There is no significant difference between 2nd and 3rd place since both teams will have strong rivals in the quarterfinals (those will probably be Olympiacos or Pro Recco). Still, it’s always better to finish 2nd than 3rd…
Season 2021/22 – Regional League, regular season: Novi Beograd – Jug 14:10
Season 2022/23 – Champions League: Novi Beograd – Jug 12:12; Regional League, regular season: Jug – Novi Beograd 10:13; Regional league, semifinals: Novi Beograd – Jug 11:11 (PSO 2:4)
The Dubrovnik-based side would make a huge step towards the Final Eight with three points. Still, it would be just one of three high hurdles that it has to pass until the end of the group (in the next two rounds, it will play against Ferencvaros and Brescia). Jug will remain 4th even if it loses to Novi Beograd. But 4th place will still be in danger if it wins. There are many “ifs” in the final standings predictions because Spandau and Sabadell chase the Croats.
The other important duel in this group, Sabadell – Brescia, will be only the third duel between these two teams in the last ten years. Brescia won both previous matches. In 2017, it beat Sabadell in Spain (13:12) in the qualifications for the Champions League. Five months ago, the Italians defeated Sabadell thanks to an excellent defense (7:4). Considering all that both teams have shown since the start of the season, Brescia is the favorite. But, Sabadell still has chances to climb to 4th place, and nobody beat the leaders of the Spanish champion with ease, especially in their pool. Brescia has to do its best to clinch the points.
4+1 Brescia is the record-holder of the LEN Euro Cup with four trophies. Sabadell won its first-ever European trophy last season, by clinching the LEN Euro Cup.
The management of the fifth-placed Spandau invited fans to help the Berliners in a significant match against OSC Budapest. The entrance will be free. Spandau is highly motivated to beat the Hungarians and stay in the race for the F8 berths. After an 8:9 loss to Sabadell in the previous round, OSC is focused on the domestic championships. OSC can’t qualify for the F8, but it comes to Berlin to take revenge for an unexpected 10:10 draw against Spandau in Budapest.
Ferencvaros is the favorite in the match against Marseille, although the French wil be the hosts. But Marseille can be a tough opponent to everyone. In December, Ferencvaros was three goals down in the game against Marseille in Budapest, but it earned a 9:8 win. The game has no importance for 7th-placed French. Ferencvaros will mathematically secure 3rd place and save slim chances to reach 1st place if it wins all three points in Marseille.
Jug AO – Novi Beograd (19:00)
Sabadell – Brescia (19:30)
Spandau 04 – OSC Budapest (19:30)
Marseille – Ferencvaros (20:00)
Standings: 1.Brescia 28, 2. Novi Beograd 25, 3. Ferencvaros 22, 4. Jug 15, 5. Spandau 11, 6. Sabadell 10, 7. Marseille 7, 8. OSC Budapest 7.
Follow the live scores on Total Waterpolo Arena
Group A (Wednesday, April 26)
If Dinamo is the host, the day in this season’s Group A begins with the game in Tbilisi, because of the difference in the time zones. But, this week, Dinamo will host Vouliagmeni already on Tuesday. The Greek club arrives in Georgia after a little bit surprising defeat to Apollon in the playoffs. That defeat can be a wake-up alarm. It’s certain that Vouliagmeni, which needs points to keep 4th place, will do its best to beat Dinamo for the second time this season (after a 12:7 home win).
Jadran Split is tied in the points with Vouliagmeni, but the Croats will have more demanding tasks than Vouliagmeni in the remaining three rounds. On Wednesday, Jadran will face Olympiacos, which is an absolute favorite. It’s hard to expect Jadran to surprise the Greek champion in Pireaus.But, the Croats’ hopes are still alive. They don’t carry a white flag.
The group leader Barceloneta and the title-holder, Pro Recco, will play away games against the teams that have been without chances of reaching the Final Eight for a while.
Barceloneta goes to Germany, where Hannover will welcome it. In the first half of the season, Barceloneta recorded a 20:5 victory over the Germans in Spain. Since then, Hannover has improved its shape. But, at this moment, the Germans’ primary goal is the best possible preparation for the final of the domestic championships. They don’t have to care much about the Champions League results. Still, the clash with Barceloneta will be a valuable part of the preparations for the domestic final.
10+ This season, ten and more goals have separated the rivals in seven matches (six in group A and only one in group B). Pro Recco holds the record with a 21:4 victory over Waspo Hannover. Wins with a double-digit margin – Group A: Barceloneta – Hannover 20:5, Pro Recco – Dinamo 20:5, Pro Recco – Hannover 21:4, Dinamo – Olympiacos 9:21, Dinamo – Pro Recco 3:13, Jadran – Dinamo 21:7. Group B: Spandau – Novi Beograd 5:16
Radnicki will host Pro Recco. Radnicki has suffered several losses in the last few months in all competitions. It still hasn’t reached the pick of the form needed for the finish of the Serbian League. The match against Pro Recco will be a good opportunity for the Serbs to test their capabilities. They want to show that a 12:21 loss in Italy doesn’t mirror the difference between their and the quality of the European champions..
Dinamo Tbilisi – Vouliagmeni (Tuesday, April 25, 19:00 – 17:00 CET)
Olympiacos – Jadran S (19:30 – 18:30 CET)
Waspo 98 Hannover – Barceloneta (19:00)
Radnicki – Pro Recco (20:30)
Standings: 1. Barceloneta 30, 2. Pro Recco 27, 3. Olympiacos 25, 4. Vouliagmeni 14*, 5. Jadran S 14*, 6. Radnicki 9, 7. Dinamo Tbilisi 6, 8. Waspo Hannover 3.
*Head-to-head: Vouliagmeni 4, Jadran 1 point
Follow the live scores on Total Waterpolo Arena