Can Olympiacos and Recco leave the competition behind?
The second half of the prelims begins with day 7’s return legs: Teams that met two weeks ago clash once again. The cities of Dubrovnik (), Eger (), and Novara () will witness the key matches. Their outcomes will influence the final ranks greatly.
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In Group A Olympiacos (GRE) can secure its top position provided the Greek side manages to achieve at least a draw in Dubrovnik (CRO). Olympiacos, the only unbeaten team in the prelims, enjoys a massive 5-point advantage after seven matches and despite all the problems of Jug, the Croatians seem to be their most dangerous rival. Every result except a defeat would secure smooth sailing for the Greeks.
In the meantime, Dynamo (RUS) continues chasing the Greeks. The Russians had a great run so far, another win against OSC (HUN) would place them in a great position for the last six rounds. The Hungarians have struggled so far, which led to the exchange of their coach last weekend: Returning coach Laszlo Toth already played the savior’s role two years ago. The former international player might have a positive effect on the team again. All players at OSC are aware that this match in Moscow might be their last chance to board the train for the finals.
The same applies to Hannover (GER) which played a brilliant game in Barcelona (ESP). Although Darko Brguljan was phenomenal, scoring six goals, the Germans still came up short as the Spaniards scored the winning shot in the final seconds. If Hannover manages to strike back it can preserve their chance to clinch a qualifying berth. Another loss would probably end their hopes.
Brescia enjoyed an easy ride on Day 7 and another three points are in sight against Partizan, though the rematch in Belgrade might be a bit more difficult. Still, the Italians are the favorite. This win is essential for them to keep up with the others in this extremely tight race.
In Group B the two highlighted matches feature the top four sides of the group. Recco (ITA) is expected to earn another win against Spandau (GER), though they almost blew their 4-goal lead in Berlin. This should make them cautious while preparing for another showdown with the surprise team of the prelims. The encounter takes place in Novara, as part of Recco’s campaign for Liguria to promote the Final Eight staged in Genova this June.
The all-Hungarian clash is the other big event of the day. Eger broke Szolnok’s four-year unbeaten run in its home a fortnight ago. Another victory, this time in Eger, would be a tremendous boost for their F8 chances. At the same time, title-holder Szolnok can’t afford another loss of points. Otherwise, they will have no chance to catch Recco in the battle for the first place.
Eger’s fiercest rival Jadran (MNE) returned to the winning track after losing back-to-back matches at home to Recco and Szolnok. Triumphing in Sabadell (ESP) was a great feat for the young Montenegrins. Another three points would keep them in the race for the F8 as well as kill the Spaniard’s last slim hope.
Steaua (ROU) also has some chance – in order to keep up, the Romanians must beat Alphen (NED). This should not present to big a challenge, they did it with ease in the Netherlands in the last round. It would also mark their first win in their home pool.
18.30 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
18.30 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
18.30 Partizan Belgrade (SRB) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.15 Dynamo Moscow (RUS) v A Hid-OSC (HUN)
17.30 Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP)
18.30 ZF Eger (HUN) v Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN)
20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
20.30 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v AZC Alphen (NED)
Last 5 CHL matches (Win, Draw, Loss)
Olympiacos v Jug 8-6
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“Certainly, we are not satisfied with the amount of our points in the first seven rounds. Too many ‘black holes’ in our game resulted in having only 10 points. Ten days ago in Athens we had our chances to get a better result. In Gruz will be even harder because despite the victory in Athens, Olympiacos was not at the highest level so I expect a much better performance from them on Wednesday.”
Marko Bijac, goalkeeper, Jug:
“There is a tough match is in front of us. Olympiacos have plenty of room to improve their game compared to Athens so we need to be on our best too. The key of the game will be the defence.”
Xavi Garcia, player, Jug:
“We are not satisfied but we must be positive. We could have a few more points but we should not think about it any more. From now on every match for us will be like a final game.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“For a second consecutive game we face Jug, this time in Croatia. This game will be harder than the last one, especially in their home, but this is an extra motivation for us and we want to make all necessary efforts to maintain our lead with a victory. In Dubrovnik, we have to be fully concentrated and set up to achieve a positive result.”
Giorgos Dervisis, player, Olympiacos:
“The game against Jug is really important for us. If we manage to get these three points in the home of Jug, one of the most difficult place to play, we get a bigger advantage for the first place automatically. Jug is a very good rival who has always belonged to the big teams in Europe. We saw our mistakes in the match that took place at our home, we do not lay back because of that win. Since we face a huge fight, we want to improve ourselves and deliver our best game there.”
Last 5 CHL matches
Barceloneta v Hannover 13-12
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“In the second leg we have the opportunity to ‘revise’ the result of the first leg. We started with an away win in the national league against Spandau, let’s see what’s possible in this international game.”
Darko Brguljan, player, Hannover:
“It will be a very tough game against Barceloneta. We have to win. It won’t be easy but we have a chance, we need to play better in defence. We conceded 12 goals in Spain and that’s too much … with a good defence we can achieve a fine result.”
Julian Real, player, Hannover:
“The game last week showed that we are playing on the same level. With the tailwind from the victory against Spandau the points will remain in Hannover!”
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“This game launches the second half of the prelims, and we play against a difficult opponent. Our purpose is to get three points to be among the best and to get the placement to the Final Eight. We will have to help our players recovering from the Copa del Rey match played last weekend.”
Fran Fernandez, player, Barceloneta:
“Our team is motivated after capturing the cup and we want to continue this streak to get as close as possible to the top positions. Hannover will be a difficult opponent but we are prepared to win the game.”
Last 5 CHL matches
Brescia v Partizan 13-9
Stefan Ciric, head coach, Partizan:
“The match against the very strong team of Brescia is another opportunity for our young players to prove their talent. Two weeks ago, we had a very bad opening in Brescia. But in the second half we proved that we could play well against the favourites. I think we should be able to play on the same, good level during the whole match, not just in two quarters like we did in the previous one.”
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Partizan:
“In the last home game we gave signs of being superior to Partizan, but we know very well that in the Banjica the Serbians always give their best. So we’ll have to be more concentrated than two weeks ago and play as we can. All our opponents have won in Belgrade and we want to achieve the same result: three points are fundamental to stay in the hunt for the Final Eight.”
Last 5 CHL matches
OSC v Dynamo 5-10
Marat Zakirov, head coach, Dynamo:
“It will be a hard match. OSC is a great team, they have a lot of high-level players. It will be an interesting game.”
Igor Bychkov, player, Dynamo:
“We did a good job in first half of Champions League and we will try to be stronger and more congregate in the second round, because we keep going towards our aim – we want to play in Final eight. As for now, our main target is to get three points in this game against OSC. It will be a very hard match but we are ready for it.”
Laszlo Toth, head coach, OSC:
“Arriving at the second round, we try to keep our chances of survival alive. The task is not simple, but people who are in the sport know that an unexpected turnaround may occur at any time.”
Last 5 CHL matches
Sabadell v Jadran 8-10
Vladimir Gojkovic, head coach, Jadran:
“This game is very important for us. A positive result in this game would reserve us the chance to qualify for the F8. Two weeks ago we won in their pool what make us as favourites. We have to be in the best possible manner and to give our best – still, I expect a difficult game but again, with positive result at the end.”
Marko Petkovic, captain Jadran:
“We had a very good game against the team of Sabadell in Spain. I hope we can repeat that in our pool. It is a very important match for us regarding the final ranking of our group. The team is ready for the match and we will give our best in our pool to make win again at home.”
Chava Gomez, head coach, Sabadell:
”We face Wednesday’s match against Jadran after playing the final phase of the Copa del Rey where we lost in the quarterfinals. The team made a great joint effort, and even with many casualties we were able to reach the penalties. We will try to recover as many players as possible before travelling to Montenegro but we know that we face a team which already beat us in our pool.”
Javier Bustos, player, Sabadell:
“We are to have another complicated Champions League match against a great team that made things very difficult for us at home and won that game. But despite all of this, we will try to go to Montenegro and complicate the life of Jadran this time and try to hand them back a home defeat. The team is a little affected physically because of all the tough competitions we have to play in but we will try to give everything.”
Last 5 CHL matches
Szolnok v Eger 10-11
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“If we could repeat our great result against Szolnok, then our team can go forward in the group. This is our goal! We want to please our fans on Wednesday.”
Krisztian Bedo, player, Eger:
“The results of the last two rounds in the Champions League were a big pleasure. The ‘Wednesday-Saturday’ match schedule is getting very hard, but we know the famous motto: impossible is nothing. I think we can win twice against Szolnok. Why not? I very much look forward these high-ranked matches every time.”
Daniel Angyal, player, Eger:
“We want to repeat our win, but we know: to defeat Szolnok twice in a row is not easy. We play at home, I think it will be full house in the pool. We are ready for the next mission.”
Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“We are training intensely to prepare for the upcoming challenges. A series of very important games are coming up, one of those is the clash with Eger in their home pool. Our goal is to improve on all levels both as a team and as individuals, to deliver a disciplined and tactical game in our matches, in Eger and in the following matches as well.”
Tamas Mezei, player, Szolnok:
“I am expecting a hard but victorious game. As of now our aim is to recapture the three points we have lost in our home pool, which is needed in order to meet our long term goals. In fact, there is not much new under the Sun, I mean Eger and Szolnok cannot surprise each other with anything in the game, the outcome will depend on our shape on the day of the encounter and on tiny, unperceivable elements.”
Last 5 CHL matches
Spandau v Recco 9-10
Francesco Di Fulvio, player, Pro Recco:
“We start again after the game in Berlin, perhaps our worst performance of the whole season. We have analysed it and understood the errors: tomorrow we will have the right approach to avoid repeating them. The important thing now is to improve from match to match, to be in the first place or the fourth changes nothing: in the other group the teams are all on the same level. In Novara it will certainly be a wonderful evening like those experienced in Genova, it is a pleasure to move to other cities in Italy to promote our sport.”
Peter Röhle, team manager, Spandau:
“We are still not playing at the level we did at the end of last year. We saw that while losing the top game in the German league by three goals against Waspo Hannover last weekend. Of course, Hannover played very well, however, we did not produce the quality we do have. “
Peter Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:
“We do face one of the best teams in Europe. Even though Pro Recco is the favourite we want to try and keep the game as close as possible. After we lost last weekend in the league I want to see a good reaction from the team. So playing in Italy does come at the right time. We showed in Berlin that we could play an even game with the European top teams. That is what I want to see, being focused and concentrated.”
Last 5 CHL matches
Alphen v Steaua 4-15
Andrei Iosep, head coach, Steaua:
“The match in the Netherlands is very hard to repeat. I think for us everything came together while they did not succeed whatever they tried. The difference in values between the two sides is not to high and I saw that Alphen could improve very well in the away matches, like the very great game they have in Spain against Sabadell. We wanted to prepare for the game the best we could to win the first points in front of our fans.”
Mihai Dragusin, player, Steaua:
“Even if we won by a huge margin, we prepare this match very seriously and we expect a much more balanced game. We hope to produce an equally good play in attack and take all three points.”
Ron van der Wild, head coach, Alphen:
“In Alphen we went 0-4 down within a few minutes. We could not recover from that. That was a pity. We now start at 0-0 with the wise lesson from two weeks ago in our mind. We are going to see what we have learned from that.”
Milos Filipovic, player, Alphen:
“It is interesting that two weeks later we are playing with Bucharest again, now in Romania. We have not performed well in Alphen and maybe we are able to show a different Alphen. “