Three crucial match-ups highlight Day 4 in the Champions League. Super Cup winner Ferencvaros (HUN) clashes with group-leader Barceloneta (ESP) while fellow Hungarian side Eger will face Brescia (ITA) in a game which might become decisive later when the line is drawn for the Final Eight in Group A. In the other group the two teams standing with three wins, Jug (CRO) and Busto BPM (ITA), shall have a great showdown.
The big games in Group A will take place in Hungary on Day 4. Four of the top five ranked sides are set to clash in Eger and in Budapest, the outcome of these two matches might have a ‘long-lasting’ effect on the hunt for the F8 berths. Eger takes on Brescia, both teams earned two wins and had one loss – the Hungarians pulled two out of two at home and are ready to maintain this run.
Ferencvaros, the freshly crowned European Super Cup winner (they downed title-holder Olympiacos in a thrilling shootout on Friday), faces group leader Barceloneta. The Spaniards had three relatively easy wins so far while Ferencvaros suffered its very first loss in the entire season in Recco, though two of their key players missing in the previous round are back for this encounter.
After a disastrous start – three losses in a row –, Dynamo (RUS) plays a must-win game against Crvena Zvezda (SRB) which is also yet to earn a point. Recco is eying a fourth win, it’s not the game where Steaua (ROU) can hope for its first points this season. This encounter will take place in Bologna as part of Recco’s promotion tour which seems to be a successful initiative since the local is pool is already sold out so an electrifying atmosphere awaits the players.
Action already kicks off on Tuesday in Group B as Jadran (CRO) meets Final Eight host Hannover (GER). Both teams stand without a win so far, though the Germans already got two draws and lost their third match by a single goal against BPM at home despite leading by four in the second period.
The clash of the day here is due in Dubrovnik where the top two ranked clubs will have a showdown. Both Jug and BPM claimed three wins, while it was a kind of expected run from the Croats (winners in 2016, runners-up in 2017), newcomer Busto stunned both title-holder Olympiacos and 2017 champion Szolnok (HUN), then came from behind to win in Hannover – another upset would definitely strengthen their chance to make the finals.
At the same time, Szolnok needs some urgent recovery after narrow defeats in Busto and Dubrovnik. The reshaped Magyar side visits Berlin where they suffered a surprising defeat last autumn (then as title-holders) and this journey won’t be any easier despite the fact the Spandau has struggled recently. The Germans lost all three matches in the prelims and Hannover also caught them in the national league last weekend so the Berliners are yet to enjoy some success in a big game in the current season.
Olympiacos already showed the way for Szolnok as they managed to recover in style by beating Spandau at home after an embarrassing start (loss in Busto, draw in Hannover). The Greeks played a fine game against Ferencvaros in the Super Cup final, this next challenge against Mladost (CRO) seems to be an easier one. Even though Croats arrive in Piraeus undefeated but this is going to be their first tougher test in the Champions League.
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“I really respect the Italian team. Brescia has a good coach and they are really difficult opponents. Still, our goal is to win all our home matches in the Champions League.”
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
“The game in Eger will be another crucial step in our path in the preliminary round. Dabrowski’s team is a direct opponent in the hunt for the qualification to the Final Eight. I’ve seen the Hungarians against Dynamo Moscow and I think they’re growing day by day: they’re a complete team with three great players such as Hosnyanszky, Vlachopoulos and Strahinja Rasovic. There’s no doubt, this game requires a very high-level performance.”
Zsolt Varga, head coach, FTC-Telekom:
„Barceloneta is a great team altogether, with one of the best center-forwards and with an excellent Felipe Perrone who is conducting their playing system all time. I think Barceloneta is one of the most difficult rivals in our group.”
Jesus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“This is going to be a really tough challenge for us. We’re up against a great team with individual players of the highest caliber. They’re coming to this game as champions of the European Super Cup, having beaten the mighty Olympiacos. So we’ll be playing with a team in extremely good form and we know that playing on their home territory is going to make this a really complicated match for us. Our aim is to maintain a very tight defense and come away with a good result, following the pattern of the season so far.”
Marat Zakirov, head coach, Dynamo:
“In this year, Champions League is filled with great matches with strong rivals. We expect a good home game against Crvena Zvezda and a great atmosphere on our tribunes.”
Boris Popovic, captain, Crvena Zvezda:
“Playing away from home never comes without a little bit of discomfort for the team. Confronting a team such as Dynamo Moscow in Russia will present another challenge which we’ll have to try to turn in our favor. Both them and us as teams are kind of at the close level, so the upcoming game is an opportunity for us to bring home some points. It’s crucial to come back home with the feat that we managed to win against the great Dynamo, playing in front of their audience. Dynamo counts on a few Serbian players, so it wouldn’t come as a big surprise to see up there are some people supporting us, too!”
Francesco Di Fulvio, player, Pro Recco:
“Steaua has less quality than us but has shown in previous matches to fight until the end even against stronger opponents. We will have to be focused from the start: it will be nice to play in Bologna, the tickets are sold out since days, there is a lot of expectations and we want to repay this affection.”
Andrei Iosep, head coach, Steaua:
“Despite the fact that we cannot show up with the best team, we will still try to give our best. We will see if it’s going to be enough to have a decent performance against the favorite team to win the Champions League this season.”
Ivan Asic, head coach, Jadran:
“Waspo Hannover is a team with many international players from Croatia, Montenegro, Spain, Holland, Italy… They have a few German players, and they are a team that has been growing in the last few years. They play well in the Champions League, they are German champions, in the final, they easily beat Spandau. This year in Champions League they lost once and they have two draws, they only lost to Busto. They are also the hosts of the Final 8 tournament and they are already qualified for the finals, but they still want to do the best in the group stage. They are a team that has been built for 4-5 years and now they are on the top of the form, with Alex Giorgetti joining them for this season who is a great player. We have a tough week ahead of us. We played against Sabac on Saturday, now we have a game against Waspo, and then on weekend four games of Croatian Cup. But, we are ready for that challenge.”
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“This will be really a challenge, first Spandau, then Split. So far our performance was great. I hope we will show our strength during the next games. If we do, we will collect more points.”
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“This is a big clash between two teams with maximum points. Sport Management is a pleasant surprise in the Champions League. It’s going to be a hard match against a very fast opponent but I believe in my team and I hope we can stay unbeaten after four rounds.”
Marco Baldineti, head coach, Busto BPM Sport Management:
“Jug is one of the strongest and most famous teams in Europe. They have such
fantastic players like Loncar, Garcia, Jokovic, and others. They are topping Group B
and for sure will remain the favorites because Jug is a team that has played with
the unchanged roster for many years. We will try to play our game without
pressure and fear. We are ready for this challenge.”
Petar Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:
“Beating Szolnok last year in Berlin was one of the surprises we have managed to achieve last season. This season we are still struggling. This weekend we have made a step forward while playing with Waspo in the German league. If we are able to preserve the good moments we probably will have a chance. Szolnok also still looks for playing the best water polo. So both teams have a lot of potentials to improve. This game could be a turning point in this season.”
Zivko Gocic, head coach, Szolnok:
“Yet again we are facing a very important game. We are expecting to have a tough and physically challenging match, where we will have to be on top with our minds. For that very reason, we cannot rest for a minute all along the game, everyone will have to give his maximum input. If we all succeed with these objectives, we will be able to succeed in Berlin.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“Our main goal for the game against Mladost is to win and gain the three points. We play in our home and we want to win this important match. We also want to have a good performance in order to confirm the signs of improvement in our last two games in the competition.”
Zoran Bajic, head coach, Mladost:
“Olympiacos was the winner of the Champions League last season and the best team of Europe. We are coming with a lot of respect but we are sure it will be a good game in which we will attack them with all our game weapons. So I am sure it will be a fine and interesting match.”