Though there are ten more rounds to go, the last round of 2017 will see a series of key matches, especially in Group A which is super competitive and has at least six teams hunting the four qualifying berths.
Jump right to the comments from players and coaches for the upcoming games!
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What seemed to be a five-horse race for the four qualifying berths before the start, is now a hunt featuring at least six serious contenders since newcomer Dynamo (RUS) took a wonderful start. The Russians’ visit to Barcelona is one of the highlights of Day 5 as even a draw would further strengthen Dynamo’s position. Barceloneta (ESP) sits 6th currently but their fantastic comeback in Dubrovnik showed their strength, the 2014 winner will go for a win at home, for sure.
The only unbeaten side in the group Olympiacos (GRE) faces OSC (HUN) in Budapest. The Hungarians opened their quest with two fine wins but then went down against Barceloneta , then against Brescia at home. Back-to-back losses to main rivals at home would further weaken OSC’s chances in the New Year but their task is extremely difficult since the Greeks look like the favourites in the group. Just a fact to underline their strength: in the weekend Olympiacos won its 120th (!) domestic league game in succession!
Winning in Budapest made Brescia (ITA) draw blood to and now they want to continue their rise, this time against Jug Dubrovnik. The Croats had some ups and downs, lost in Moscow, couldn’t beat Barceloneta at home, dropping more points would be rather painful for last season’s runners-up.
Hannover (GER) ought to beat Partizan (SRB) in order to reserve some chance to keep up with the others, all other results might take the Germans out of the race for the F8. Last season this game ended in a draw, while Partizan won in Belgrade but in the summer six more players left the Serbian club which somewhat explains while they can regarded the underdogs this time.
Few would have guessed that the game of Jadran (MNE) and Recco (ITA) would feature the top two ranked sides of the group on Day 4. This is the first real test for the Montenegrins who are still unbeaten, survived Eger’s visit with a draw – another tie (or win) against the 2015 winners would be a Christmas miracle. All in all, Jadran will begin the match in an upbeat mood as they are fresh from winning the Montenegrin Cup for the 7th straight occasion.
Eger (HUN) will have another tough away match, this time in Berlin. Since Spandau managed to defeat title-holder Szolnok (HUN), the Germans stepped forward and can be considered a serious contender for the Final 8 – another triumph would secure them a five-point advantage.
Szolnok could recover from the shocking loss in Berlin as winning their best match of the season against Recco in the previous round put the Hungarians back to the right track. Now they can prepare for an easy ride in Alphen (NED) as the Dutch are not in the same weight-category as the title-holder.
The game btween Sabadell (ESP) and Steaua (ROU) – to be played on Tuesday – will decide the respective faiths of both teams. A home win would prolong the Spaniards’ hopes to stay in the hunt as long as possible – if the Romanians can cause a surprise it would mean that they catch up with Sabadell, as well as cement their rivals into the lower part of the ranks.
18.30 A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
18.30 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB)
19.00 Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Dynamo Moscow (RUS)
20.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
19.00 (Tuesday) Astralpool Sabadell (ESP) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU)
18.30 Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v Pro Recco (ITA)
19.30 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v ZF-Eger (HUN)
20.30 AZC Alphen (NED) v Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN)
Attila Petik, head coach, OSC:
“We play against the leader of the group. Olympiacos is a well-formed team of good players. It will be a tough match just as every game in this group. If we can play what we practiced we can collect a point or points.”
Gabor Hegedus, player, OSC:
“We know each other well with Olympiacos from last year. We played tough games and I expect a hard game this Wednesday too, but as in this group every point matters we must try to keep all three at home.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“We are ready to play against a strong and dangerous opponent, who is capable of achieving any result in their home, especially at a time when they are looking for a recovery after the last bad results. All of these make our task very difficult, as our goal is a second consecutive away victory. Our performance, our concentration, our rhythm and especially our defence are those that will determine the game.”
Konstantinos Mourikis, player, Olympiacos:
“This is an away game, against a very good team. Our goal is to play as always for victory and I believe that if we show our strength as in the previous games, we can win. We have to keep the score low, because in such games the victory is coming from the defence!
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“We want to play great water polo. We will show real power. On this basis we are able to win and collect more points.”
Jorn Winkelhorst, player, Hannover:
“We lost now three matches in a row. So we need those points against Partizan to stay in the race for the Final 8. It will be a tough match but we are ready to fight for the three points.”
Predrag Jokic, player, Hannover:
“Partizan is a young team with players from their own school of water polo. This team plays an aggressive water polo with plenty of swimming. I expect an exciting game. I’m sure our team can get the three points.”
Stefan Ciric, head coach, Partizan:
“We defended our title in the national cup of Serbia last weekend, so we achieved our main goal in the first part of the season. This success gives us a new stimulus for the following challenges, but on the other side, our team is tired after two hard games in the Serbian Cup Final Four. Hannover plays better and better from season to season, especially in its home pool. It is a team, with a few very good Germans players and several foreigners. Among the leaders of the team are two Montenegrins who played for Partizan, Predrag Jokic and Aleksandar Radovic. Despite tiredness, we’ll try to do our best.”
Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Dynamo Moscow (RUS)
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“The match against Dynamo Moscow will be very difficult. The Russian team is a serious candidate to enter the Final Eight as they won three matches in four rounds. For us it is very important to claim the victory with the help of our supporters. This is the last match in Sant Sebastia Pool in this year. We hope to win it.”
Felipe Perrone, player, Barceloneta:
“Our team hopes to win the match but we have to remember that Dynamo Moscow has 20 players with a very high budget and the Russian team beat Spain in the last World Championships. This game will be very difficult but we want to get 3 points.”
Marat Zakirov, head coach, Dynamo:
“Barceloneta is a really good team. In all previous matches they showed great game. We expect a hard match.”
Nikola Radjen, player, Dynamo:
“For us it will be big match especially after our win over Hannover at home. We want to make a good impression in the last Champions League match of this year. We all know and respect players of Barceloneta and we know it will be really good game.
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
“I have lots of admiration for Jug, a team with a lot of very important goals and a club being able to produce players of top level every season. They’ve got no more champions such as Perrone, Obradovic or Vrlic, but they still remain in pole position for the final win. For us, it will be a very tough challenge but we’ll play to beat them and gain an historical result.”
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“The match on Wednesday is very important but not crucial to qualify for the Final Eight. We face a hard opponent, they are very strong in defence, we know them very well. I believe in my team, they showed too many times that they are the strongest when it is most needed.”
Marko Bijac, captain, Jug:
“We are in good shape after we claimed our first trophy of the season last weekend. Towards the end of year our form is improving and I believe that we will be up to the task on Wednesday.”
Chava Gomez, head coach, Sabadell:
”The game against Steaua is going to be very hard as it is a very strong team but has not yet won any match in this competition and this makes it even more dangerous. We have to go for the match from the first minute if we want to win.”
Javier Gorria, player, Sabadell:
”Two weeks ago we got the first home win against Alphen and now we want to get another win, this time against Steaua. Although in the classification they do not have any points, we know that they are a very strong team and they are going to make things very complicated for us if we want to win. But with the support of our public we can achieve it.”
Michal Diakonow, player, Steaua:
“We go to Spain after an important win in the league against Oradea, to fight for our first points in the Champions League. Sabadell plays at home, they play well, they have good shooters but we want to conquer their territory. We are focused and ready to fight for victory.”
Dimitri Goanta, player, Steaua:
“After a game where we controlled 3 quarters against the team of Jadran Herceg Hovi but we lost it in the end, tomorrow we meet Sabadell. A team which we played last year for a place in the Champions League group and had put as in trouble in the last quarter. But we are confident that with a well prepared, tactical game we will bring home the first victory of our team in the Champions League.”
Vladimir Gojkovic, head coach, Jadran:
“This will be last game in this year and in this half of season. We now face a game with maybe the best water polo team all over the globe. We would like to perform well and make a good impression. Recco is the absolute favourite and it is great challenge to play with them.”
Dragan Draskovic, player, Jadran:
“Recco is the best team and it is very difficult to play against them. They have so many great water polo players and they are covered in all position. We would like to make a good impression at home after our excellent first four games. Our team will give its best. Hope the match will be a entertaining for the spectators and even if Recco is much stronger than us we will enjoy the game.”
Aleksandar Ivovic, player, Pro Recco:
“Jadran is a young team with a lot of players who have a good future ahead of them: they fill the technical gap with combative attitude. I expect a difficult game, especially in the first two quarters. We must have a right approach from the beginning, start with decision to take the three points which are fundamental for our ranking”
Peter Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:
“Even it there is still a long way to go, there is already some slight pressure on Eger, having seven points so far. They will do everything and fight hard to win the game and stay close to the other teams. We do know how hard it will be playing against Eger. We did already face the team two years ago and did lose both games. I hope that the team will be able to transport the power out of the last weeks and show the strength which will be needed to create another surprise. The defence will win this game so we have to be highly concentrated.”
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“I think this time this match is the most important game, the biggest contest. Recco and Szolnok are sure bets for the final eight. For the other spots Eger, Jadran and Spandau battle against each other. We want win of course on Wednesday.”
Gergo Kovacs, player, Eger:
“We were training very concentrated against Spandau. They beat Szolnok, it was a big surprise, but we would like to win in Berlin. The result of this game can modify the rankings in our group. The victory can be a great present to our fans for Christmas.”
Krisztian Bedo, player, Eger:
“Everybody knows, that in this period of the year is not so easy to play a very important away game, after a tiring trip. We are not thinking about Christmas yet. First of all we have to win against Spandau, after that we have to beat Szolnok for the Hungarian Super Cup. Then it will be a worthy start of the holiday season.”
Nemanja Stevanovic, head coach, Alphen:
“Of course, we will receive the reigning European champion Szolnok with respect. We will do everything to make it a good match, but we do not have any illusions. For us, the public must be the big winner of this kind of games.”
Philip Coric, player, Alphen:
“We know most of the players of Szolnok. Some of them are my Serbian compatriots and are big names in my homeland. We are looking forward to be able to fight against tem in Alphen. “
Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“We have two more games in 2017. On Wednesday we will be playing a Champions League match with Alphen in their home and on Friday we will have a match in Budapest with the team of Eger, in the final of the Hungarian Super Cup. The encounter with Alphen seems to be the easier one. Of course we cannot underestimate the team from the Netherlands and we will not do so, we will have to play with might and focus. If we do that, I can expect a confident victory at the last Champions League match of the year.”
Zivko Gocic, captain, Szolnok:
“Without underrating the team of Alphen, our team represents another level. We should not underestimate them, we know that their team is manned with national players and fine foreigners. One of my ex-team mates from Belgrade, Milos Urosevic is the team’s goalkeeper. We will take them seriously, as we do with all our rivals. We want to win all three points and we will do so in the home of Alphen.”