The countdown has begun for the 2024 Champions League, with the first round scheduled for September 26/27.
While European water polo fans are waiting for the start of the elite competition, they can enjoy plenty of international matches all over the continent.
The LEN Euro Cup qualifications will be held from Thursday until Sunday. Sixty-four games will be played in eight pools in just four days.
Thirty-six teams will participate in the qualifications (22 entered the Euro Cup and 14 arrived from the Champions League qualifications).
They are split into eight groups (four groups of four teams and four of five).
After six rounds in the group stage, the top two teams from each group will qualify for the eighth-finals. Besides these eight teams, the 3rd-placed and 4th-placed teams in the Group stage of the Champions League will play in the eight-finals
The eight-finals and the quarter-finals will be played on a home-and-away basis. The bet four teams will play in the Final Four
The first games in the groups with five teams will be played tomorrow.
2023/24 LEN Euro Cup, Qualifications
Group A (Sabac): Ortigia (Italy), Sabac (Serbia),Noisy-le-Sec (France), Valis (Serbia), Dinamo Bucharest (Romania)
Group B (Budapest, BVSC host): Vasas (Hungary) BVSC Zuglo (Hungary), Ludwigsburg (Germany), Mataro (Spain),
Group C (Tourcoing): Szolnok (Hungary), Tourcoing (France), Trieste (Italy), Pays d’Aix (France)
Group D (Rijeka): Radnicki Kragujevac (Serbia), Oradea (Romania), Solaris (Croatia), Primorje EB Rijeka (Croatia)
Group E (Athens): OSC Budapest (Hungary) Panionios Athens (Greece), Honved Budapest (Hungary), Tenerife (Spain), White Sharks Hannover (Germany).
Group F (Duisburg): Savona (Italy), Telimar Palermo (Italy), Partizan (Serbia), ASC Duisburg (Germany), Sete (France).
Group G (Barcelona): Barcelona (Spain), Mladost Zagreb (Croatia), Apollon Smyrnis (Greece), OSC Potsdam (Germany)
Group H (Kotor): Waspo98 Hannover (Germany), Primorac Kotor (Montenegro), Terrassa (Spain), GS Peristeri (Greece), Panathinaikos (Greece).
As usual, there are more than two favorites for the top spots in almost every group, so it’s expected that the upcoming four days will offer a lot of exciting matches.
In Group A, which begins today, former Serbian champion and host Sabac will face stiff competition from two teams that performed well in the Champions League qualifications, Noisy-le-Sec and Ortigia. Sabac reached the quarter-finals last season and is considered one of the teams that can go through, but Noisy and Ortigia aim the same. The other Serbian team in this group, Valis Vega, has reinforced itself with some excellent players and can pose a challenge for the favorites. Based on their Champions League performance, Dinamo Bucharest is considered the underdog in this group.
Reigning Euro Cup champion Vasas will play its first match of the season in Group B in Budapest, but not in the home pool. BVSC is the host of Group B, which also includes Mataro from Spain and Ludwigsburg from Germany. It is expected that both Hungarian clubs will qualify for the next round.
5 Hungary and Germany will have five clubs each in the LEN Euro Cup. Each country that is among the top 11 in the LEN Ranking could enter up to six clubs in the European cups. Italy, Serbia, Spain and Greece have six clubs on the international stage this year, like Hungary and Germany, but two clubs will represent each of the four countries in the Champions League.
Group C features four clubs, two of which are from France. Host Tourcoing is the top contender for the first place. Szolnok and Trieste are expected to compete for the second spot. Pays d’Aix has strengthened its squad compared to last season and could spring a surprise.
Three clubs that came from the Champions League qualifications – Radnicki, Oradea and Primorje are in Group D, hosted by Primorje. All three have the right to expect they will reach the group stage, but the fourth participant, Solaris, isn’t an underdog.
Two Hungarian clubs that failed to make it through the Champions League qualification round, Honved and OSC, were drawn into the same group. They go to Athens (Group E), where they will be welcomed by Panionios, the semifinalists in the previous season, which was very active in the transfer market this summer. Spanish Tenerife and White Sharks Hannover are the remaining two teams too. Tenerife might spoil some plans of the three favorites. White Sharks, the development team of the Waspo98 Hannover, will try to gain some experience in its European debut.
Unlike White Sharks, Waspo98 Hannover has high ambitions. The runner-up in the 2023 German League won’t play in the Champions League for the first time after eight years. Now, it wants to reach the LEN Euro Cup Group Stage, and it will try to achieve its goal in Group H in Kotor, which has no clear favorite. Hannover’s rivals are host Primorac, Spanish Terrasssa and two Greek clubs – Peristeri and Panionios.
Savona, the finalists of the previous edition of the Euro Cup is the favorite in Group F in Duisburg. The Italian team will face their compatriots Telimar in a national derby and will also have a challenging task against 7-time European champion Partizan, a club that has been steadily improving its European performance after being in a deep cryisis. While the host ASC Duisburg and Sete are not considered strong contenders, anything can happen in the competition, and surprises are always possible.
All groups in the Euro Cup Men will have at least one national derby, except for Group G in Barcelona. Host Barcelona and Apollon Smyrnis are the favorites to grab the top two spots, but they shouldn’t underestimate the young and determined team of Mladost. The fourth participant in this group, OSC Potsdam, has an inexperienced and young team, making it challenging for them to compete for a place in the Group stage.
Day 1 (September 21)
Group A (Sabac): Ortigia – Valis Vega (18:00), Sabac Elixir – Dinamo Bucharest (20:00). Noisy-le-Sec bye.
Group F (Duisburg): Partizan – Telimar Palermo (18:00), ASC Duisburg – Sete Natation (20:00). Savona bye
Group H (Kotor): Primorac – Panathinaikos (18:00), Waspo 98 Hannover – Terrassa (20:00). Peristeri bye
Group E (Athens): OSC Budapest – Tenerife Echeyde (18:30 – 17:30 CET), Panionios – White Sharks Hannover (20:30 – 19:30 CET). Honved bye
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