The first half of the Champions League Preliminary Phase will end this week with the matches of the 7th round.
Two weeks ago, almost every game of the 6th matchday was a derby.
There won’t be so many highlighted encounters in the 7th round, but it doesn’t mean that there won’t be great clashes.
Undoubtedly, the match of the week is an all-Hungarian battle – an encounter between OSC and Ferencvaros, scheduled for Wednesday.
Group A, Tuesday, February 7
The 7th round begins with the match Dinamo – Pro Recco in Tbilisi. The European champion, encouraged by a great away win over Barceloneta in the 6th round (11:5), shouldn’t have a demanding task.
Pro Recco, Olympiacos and Barceloneta share 1st place in this group, with 15 points each.
Olympiacos is the only of these three teams that will play on home soil. The Greeks’ rival is Radnicki. The hosts are in good shape. They won the Greek Cup last weekend, with convincing wins over Vouliagmeni (12:7) and Panathinaikos (14:4). On the other side, ten days ago, Radnicki failed to defend the Serbian Cup since it was defeated by Crvena Zvezda in the semifinals. Radnicki has had big ups and downs in the Champions League this season, but the Serbian club is still in the race for the F8 berths. It’s hard to expect that it can avoid a defeat in Piraeus, but it has no pressure, which is the Serbs’ advantage. The Greeks know that.
“Radnicki is a very good team. They have made some changes in their roster lately, but they remain respectable opponents. We want the victory to be one step closer to our participation in the Final 8”, Olympiacos’ captain Ioannis Fountoulis said on the club’s website.
The duel in Piraeus will be a clash between the coaches who know each other very well – Uros Stevanovic and Igor Milanovic. Radnicki’s head coach Uros Stevanovic was Milanovic’s first assistant in Partizan, when the Belgrade-based side won its 7th title as the European champion in 2011.
“Since Olympiacos is one of the favorites to win the Champions League, we expect a very challenging game. We will try to get the most out of this game to prepare for the upcoming challenges in the domestic championship, the Regional League, and eventually the Champions League”, Uros Stevanovic said (source – Radnicki’s press release)
Barceloneta, which won the domestic cup last weekend, like Olympiacos, is still wounding heals after a big defeat to Pro Recco. The Spaniards arrive in Split to play against Jadran and wish to return on the winning track. The Split-based side is in a good mood after a win over Jug in the Croatian derby. Anyway, Barceloneta is the favorite, but Jadran isn’t an underdog. The Split-based side played well against Pro Recco and Olympiacos in Split, despite suffering losses in both games. It’s sure that Jadran won’t surrender easily. The hosts might surprise the Spaniards.
Waspo Hannover and Vouliagmeni will face off in Germany. Both of the teams had an unsuccessful weekend in the domestic competitions. Vouliagmeni lost to Olympiacos in the semifinals of the Greek Cup. Hannover was defeated by Duisburg for the second time this season. Two weeks ago, Vouliagmeni lost to Olympiacos in the Greek derby in the Champions League, while Hannover beat Dinamo Tbilisi. That victory boosted the Germans’ hopes of reaching the Final Eight for the third time in a row. So, this match is one of the crucial games in the battle for 4th place in the group.
Olympiacos – Radnicki (17:30 – 16:30 CET)
Dinamo Tbilisi – Pro Recco (19:00 – 16:00 CET)
Waspo 98 Hannover – Vouliagmeni (19:00)
Jadran Split – Barceloneta (19:00)
Standings:1. Olympiacos 15, 2. Barceloneta 15, 3. Pro Recco 15, 4. Radnicki 8, 5. Jadran 7, 6. Vouliagmeni 7, 7. Hannover 3, 8. Dinamo 0.
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Group B, Wednesday, February 8
All eyes will be on Budapest on Wednesday. OSC Budapest and Ferencvaros will meet for the third time this season. The previous two encounters were close battles. Ferencvaros defeated OSC in the final of the Hungarian Cup after a penalty shootout. Three weeks ago, “Fradi” beat OSC in the Hungarian League, thanks to Denes Varga’s last-gasp goal scored just 27 seconds before the end. Everything that happened in those two matches and the recent results that both teams achieved promise a new big battle between the champion and the runner-up in the last season’s Hungarian League.
But, compared to the domestic matches, Ferencvaros will play with four foreign players in the Champions League (a team is allowed to have only two foreigners on the roster in a match in the Hungarian competitions). OSC has no foreign players on the roster.
OSC’ head coach Daniel Varga said:
“This season, we have already played two games against Ferencvaros, and we were so close to them. We are in good form now, but OSC v FTC is always a special clash. They are the favorites in the game, in the Champions League they can play with four excellent foreign players, but we want to cause a surprise and keep the three points at home. I believe we can do it, but we need to play close to our maximum.” (source – LEN Press Release)
Ferencvaros’ coach Zsolt Varga underlines that the two teams know each other very well. Not only from this year, but from last year too:
“Once, I heard maybe from Dani Varga that if we had to write on a paper what the other team would do, we would hit it 9 times out of 10. I think the more these two teams play with each other, the more balanced the outcome will be. It will be a different match than the previous ones, because we will play in the Champions League, and it is an important match, so we need to be on top to get the three points.”(source – LEN Press Release)
The visiting teams are the favorites in the other three matches in Group B. However, the hosts have the right to dream of surprises. A win (or wins) of some of the three home teams won’t be a sensation.
The group-leader Brescia travels to France, where it will be welcomed by Marseille. Brescia recorded five quite convincing wins in the previous six rounds and suffered only one defeat (to Novi Beograd in Belgrade). The Italians proved they could go high in the 2023 Champions League. Marseille is at the bottom of the table. The French had some great moments this season, but they haven’t collected many points. They will have a chance in the match against an excellent team of Brescia, if they show their best.
Novi Beograd will play against Sabadell in Spain. In normal circumstances, Novi Beograd would be a favorite. But, the Serbs have had big troubles with injuries and illnesses in the last few weeks. Two weeks ago, it had only 11 players in the match against Ferencvaros. Two key players won’t travel to Spain (Nikola Jaksic and Radomir Drasovic). On the other side, Sabadell proved it was a good team. Yesterday, it was very close to winning the Spanish Cup. We’ll see if it can benefit from Novi Beograd’s troubles.
“I expect a very tough match. None of the teams that played in Sabadell achieved an easy win there. But, we need a difficult game at the moment. I believe that we will play at a high level and that we will win. All of us are still hurt by the defeat to Crvena Zvezda in the Serbian Cup final. We reacted in a good way beating Sabac in the Serbian league – 20:13. However, we conceded too many goals, so we have to improve our defense.”, Novi Beograd’s captain Dusan Mandic said at today’s press conference.
Jug Dubrovnik, which is burdened by injuries, goes to Berlin to face Spandau 04 with the intention of keeping the tradition. Jug and Spandau met eleven times in the Champions League in the past 12 years. Jug recorded eleven wins. But, Spandau’s results in the German League and the Champions League this season warn Jug that it will only extend its winning streak in matches against the Berliners if it plays the best it can.
Spandau – Jug AO (19:30)
Sabadell – Novi Beograd (19:30)
Marseille – Brescia (18:30)
OSC Budapest – Ferencvaros (19:30)
Standings: 1.Brescia 15 pts, 2. Novi Beograd 13, 3. Ferencvaros 12, 4. Jug 8, 5. OSC 5, 6. Spandau 6, 7. Sabadell 4, 8. Marseille 4.
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