The Main Phase of the Champions League starts earlier than usual due to a well-known reason and two significant national team competitions taking place in January and February.
The first-round matches will be played this week, with Groups A and B teams playing tomorrow and Groups C and D on Wednesday.
The competition formula has been changed. We have written a lot about it. In short -the top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinal groups, and the 3rd and 4th-placed teams go to the LEN Euro Cup eighth finals.
While there are many differences compared to the previous season, one thing is the same: the most significant match of Day 1 will take place in Piraeus. The 2022/23 season began with the derby Olympiacos – Pro Recco (Olympiacos won the game, but the Italians clinched the trophy).
The highlight of Day 1 of the 2024 Champions League will be the encounter between Olympiacos and Jug in Group B tomorrow.
It will be the first game in the 2024 Champions League season, starting at 18:00 CET.
2024 Champions League, Day 1, Preview
Novi Beograd, the runner-up in the 2023, opens the season with a game against Steaua in Group A. The Serbs reshaped the team, and they are considered the favorites again. It’s hard to expect that the Romanians can cause a surprise in Belgrade. The other match in this group will be the clash of the second-best clubs of Spain and Italy. Sabadell welcomes Brescia. Both teams have suffered a lot of changes. At first sight, they are of similar quality. Brescia proved it had a good team. Sabadell’s water polo players are yet to showcase their capabilities, as this will be their first match against a strong team this season. Last season, Brescia beat Sabadell twice in the group stage.
Find out more about the teams in Group A
Reigning champion Pro Recco is expected to comfortably win their first game in Group B against Dinamo. As mentioned, the big match of the week will be a derby between Olympiacos and Jug in Piraeus in this group. The two teams met at the Final Eight in Belgrade in June. It was a match in the 5th- 8th semifinals and Olympiacos recorded a 14:5 victory. But it was one of Jug’s worst games in the past few years. Nine goals wasn’t a real difference in quality. Jug lost two key players this summer (Loren Fatovic and Konstantinos Kakaris), but the new team displayed excellent performances in the Champions League qualifications and sent a signal that it could go high.
Olympiacos hasn’t played an official match this season yet. A new head coach will debut on Olympiacos’ bench on Tuesday. Hrvoje Koljain took over the team this summer. Jug probably can’t surprise Olympiacos’ coach with tactics because Koljanin worked as Jug’s assistant coach in the last season. Besides Koljanin, three players who left a strong mark at Jug play for Olympiacos – goalkeeper Bijac, Buslje and newcomer Loncar. It will be a clash of excellent teams that know each other very well.
Find out more about the teams in Group B
Ferencvaros, one of the title contenders, will host Jadran Herceg Novi, while Jadran Split will welcome qualifier Crvena Zvezda in Group C. The home teams, which signed many excellent new players this summer, are the favorites in both duels. However, Jadran HN also brought a few excellent newcomers, and Crvena Zvezda kept most of the players who won the Serbian Cup and silver in the Serbian Championships last season. The Hungarians and the Croats mustn’t underestimate their rivals.
Find out more about the teams in Group C
In this week’s Group D matches, Barceloneta will face Spandau 04 in a home game in Barcelona, while Marseille will host Vouliagmeni in Marseille. Barcelona is the favorite, but the match between Marseille and Vouliagmeni is expected to be exciting. Marseille has strengthened its team with several talented players, making them a formidable opponent for any Champions League club. On the other hand, Vouliagmeni, a semi-finalist in the 2023 season, is a team that commands respect despite having a younger squad. Everything is possible in this game.
Find out more about the teams in Group D
Day 1, Schedule
Group A, September 26
Novi Beograd – Steaua (19:45), Sabadell – Brescia (19:30)
Group B, September 26
Pro Recco – Dinamo Tbilisi (19:00), Olympiacos – Jug AO (19:00 – 18:00 CET)
Group C, September 27
Ferencvaros – Jadran Herceg Novi (18:30) , Jadran Split – Crvena zvezda (19:00)
Group D, September 27
Barceloneta – Spandau 04 Berlin (20:00), Marseille – Vouliagmeni (20:00)