There are no standout favourites at this stage of the women’s Euro Cup, as the first legs of the quarterfinals begin tomorrow.
For three of the ties in Spain, Hungary and Greece, it’s anyone’s guess who might progress to the semi-finals of the women’s Euro Cup. In Italy, things are a little more obvious. Still, there are sixty-four minutes of water polo to played, and much can change.
Quarter-finals – 1st Leg (28th January)
19.30 – CN Terrassa vs FTC Telekom
15.30 – UVSE vs Ethnikos
18.00 – NC Vouliagmeni vs ZF Eger
16.00 – Plebiscito Padova vs LUC Metropole
The focus will very much be on Alfred Hajos tomorrow as the spiralling UVSE reacquaints itself with Ethnikos for the second time this season.
There are many parallels to be drawn between the stories of these two sides’ seasons; both lost big players at the start of the season (either through injury or transfer), and both were knocked prematurely out of the Champions League. The biggest parallel, though, is that both teams, at the moment, are lightyears away from being the best team in their city, having lost multiple times to their big rivals already this season.
The Hungarians won their duel 10-8 back in December, but the two teams, both of which find themselves third in their national leagues, now might be more evenly matched than ever; Ethnikos have dropped just two games in all competitions since their last meeting (twice to Olympiacos), while UVSE, 2017 winners of this competition, have been slightly worse, losing four games in all outings, three of which have come against FTC Telekom. A strong start for both teams will be crucial.
Meanwhile, Terrassa will want to emulate the feat of their men’s team, which won by a huge margin in their European quarterfinal first leg on Tuesday against Ludwigsburg (7-16). Unfortunately, Xavi Perez’s side will have a much more complicated chore as they invite Hungarian league leaders Ferencvaros to town.
Fradi, who are not long the new Hungarian Cup champions, are on a high at the moment after recently obliterating title rivals UVSE. Terrassa has shown some wild inconsistency this season, which sees them currently sitting 5th in the Spanish League. More worryingly, they have a bad record in the ‘bigger’ games this season, which is something they will want to rectify tomorrow evening. FTC will want to wrap up the game in Spain, but they know they will be able to recover from a minor blip when they return to Nepliget for the second leg.
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In another Greek-Hungarian affair, the quality-filled teams of Eger and Vouliagmeni will lock horns. In a bit of a throwback to a women’s European clash from a decade or two ago, the Nautical Club might just be the favourites for this one, but Eger has the firepower of some seasoned internationals to call on, so Kiki Liosi’s team will be weary. Eger has lost against all of their Greek opponents so far this season.
Perhaps the clearest-cut quarterfinal of them all is between Lille and Plebiscito. While the French Cup winners of last week will be on a high, they face an uphill battle against last season’s Euro League bronze medalists, Plebiscito. For the reigning French champions, it’s all about staying in the tie on their trip to Padua this weekend. The Italians have not been at their best this season by any means, but they will still be favourites to take this tie with ease. When they last met earlier this season in the Champions League, Plebiscito easily triumphed 18-10.
The quarterfinals, like the semis and the final that will follow, will be played over the course of two legs. In the event of an aggregate draw after both games are played, a penalty shoot-out is the method of choice to separate the teams.
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