The new season of the European club competitions will begin tomorrow.
As usual, the qualifications for the LEN Champions League open the season. Thirteen teams will start in Qualification Round 1 . Eight will advance to the second round (top four from each of two groups).
The first round in Group B in Podgorica (Montenegro) will be played tomorrow. Group A in Savona (Italy) starts a day later.
Seven teams will battle for the top four places in Podgorica: host Jadran Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Jadran Split (Croatia), OSC Budapest (Hungary), Apollon Smyrnis (Greece), Sintez Kazan (Russia), Enka Istanbul (Turkey), and EVK Zaibas (Lithuania).
It’s forecast that OSC and Jadran will battle for 1st place here. The finalists of the LEN Euro Cup and the Hungarian Championships last season OSC Budapest entered the new season with a slightly rejuvenated team compared to the previous season. Mate Aranyi and Vince Vigvari, the U20 Hungarian national team members, arrived at OSC, while Balasz Erdelyi, the Olympic bronze medalist, left the club. Jadran Split formed an excellent team and aims to come out of the shadow of Jug and Mladost in Croatia, but it has high ambition in the international scene. The former European champion signed contracts with respectable Croatian players (Bukic,Dobud,Kharkov). This team can go all the way in the qualifications and secure a Champions League berth.
Jadran Herceg Novi returned its Champions League wild card due to the problems, which culminated with a roof collapsing in the indoor pool in Herceg Novi. Because of that, the Montenegrin champion is a host in Podgorica. The team is younger than in the previous season, as several excellent players left. A tough battle for round 2 awaits the Montenegrins.
Russian champion Sintez and Apollon Smyrnis are also serious contenders for the top four places. Enka Istanbul, which brought an experienced Paulo Obradovic, might upset favorites. Lithuanian Zaibas is an underdog. The Lithuanians have no experience in the European cups. According to the reported roster, one of the key players is a 41-year old Montenegrin Blagoje Ivovic, whose brother Aleksandar is one of the best players in the world and Pro Reco’s captain.
Savona (Italy), Montpellier (France), Terrassa (Spain), Primorac (Montenegro), Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal) and AZS Warsaw (Poland) play in the group in Savona. It will be a big surprise if the Portuguese and the Poles advance to the second round. So, it’s clear which teams are favorites.
One former European champion plays in this group. Primorac Kotor won the title in 2009. Twelve years after winning the title Primorac isn’t in a circle of the best European teams. One of the club’s best players last season, center-forward Miroslav Perkovic, left Primorac a few days ago and joined Novi Beograd. It should be mentioned that the team is guided by Ranko Perovic, who was Primorac’s coach in 2009. Perovic returned to Primorac recently to replace Sandro Sukno on the bench. Sukno has been coaching Pro Recco since this summer.
Games in Podgorica will be played in front of the empty stands, while spectators will be allowed to enter the pool in Savona.
The second qualification round will be played between October 8 and 10. Sixteen teams will play in this round. The clubs which pass the first round will be joined by HAVK Mladost Zagreb (Croatia) Barcelona (Spain), Noisy-le-Sec (France), Vouliagmeni (Greece), Szolnok (Hungary), Brescia (Italy), Crvena Zvezda (Serbia), Oradea (Romania).
Champions League, Qualification Round 1, calendar
Group A (Savona)
Primorac Kotor (Montenegro)
AZS UW WP Warsaw (Poland)
Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal)
Day 1 (Septembar 23): Primorac-AZS UW WP Warsaw (15:00), Terrassa-Montpellier (17:00), Savona-Vitoria (19:00).
Day 2 (September 24), morning session: Montpellier-Vitoria(9:00), Terrassa-Primorac ( 11:00), Savona-AZS UW WP Warsaw (13:00).
Day 2 (September 24), afternoon/evening session: Primorac-Vitoria (15:00), AZS UW WP Warsaw-Terrassa (17:00), Savona-Montpellier (19:00).
Day 3 (September 25): Vitoria – AZS UW WP Warsaw (15:00), Montpellier-Primorac (17:00), Savona-Terrassa (19:00)
Day 4 (September 26): AZS UW WP Warsaw-Montpellier (9:00), Vitoria -Terrassa (11:00), Savona-Primorac (13:00).
Group B (Podgorica)
OSC Budapest (Hungary)
Jadran Split (Croatia)
Apollon Smyrnis (Greece)
Jadran Herceg Novi (Montenegro)
Sintez Kazan (Russia)
EVK Zaibas (Lithuania)
Enka Istanbul (Turkey)
Day 1(September 22): Apollon – Sintez (16:30), Jadran Herceg Novi – Jadran Split (18:30) Zaibas – Enka (20:30),
Day 2 (September 23), morning session: OSC – Apollon (9:00), Jadran HN – Zaibas (10:45), Sintez – Enka (12:30)
Day 2 (September 23), afternoon/evening session: Apollon – Jadran Split (16:30), Jadran Herceg Novi – Enka (18:30), OSC – Sintez (20:30)
Day 3 (September 24): Apollon – Zaibas (16:30), Jadran Herceg Novi – Sintez (18:15), OSC – Jadran Split (20:30).
Day 4 (September 25), morning session: Zaibas – OSC (9:00), Jadran Split – Sintez (10:45), Enka – Apollon (12:30)
Day 4 (September 25), afternoon/evening session: Jadran Split – Zaibas (16:30), Jadran Herceg Novi – Apollon (18:30), OSC – Enka (20:30)
Day 5 (Septemer 26): Zaibas – Sintez (9:00), Jadran Herceg Novi – OSC (10:45), Enka – Jadran Split (12:30).