There will be plenty of water polo games in LEN cups all over Europe on Wednesday.
The Champions League continues with the four matches of Day 6 in Group B.
At the same time, the clubs that participate in the LEN Euro Cup and the LEN Challenger Cup return on the European stage. The quarterfinals of both competitions begin tomorrow, with the games of the first leg.
LEN Euro Cup Quarterfinals, 1st leg, Preview
Two Hungarian, two Italian, and one club from Greece, Serbia, France and Romania apiece reached the quarterfinals of the Euro Cup.
The duels that feature the Italians (Savona and Trieste) are the derbies.
Savona, one of the most successful clubs in the history of the LEN Euro Cup with four appearances in the final matches (three trophies and one 2nd place), will play against Tourcoing. The French club reshaped its team last summer, intending to qualify for the Champions League. However, after the 2nd stage of the CHL qualifications, the French continued the season in the LEN Euro Cup. Savona’s didn’t have such high ambitions (it was eliminated in the 2nd round of the CHL qualifications, as well as Tourcoing), but it can go high in the Euro Cup. Both clubs have realistic chances of reaching the top four in the second-tier LEN cup.
Besides Savona, Szolnok is the only quarterfinalist that has already won the Euro Cup. It happened two years ago when the Hungarian club had a much stronger team than it has now. The former European champion will face Trieste, which debuted in LEN competitions this season. Still, Trieste isn’t an underdog. Moreover, some consider the Italians the favorites here. Trieste is the only club that advanced to the quarterfinals with two wins in the eight finals. It beat a very good team of Noisy-le-Sec (20:12 in Paris and 16:13 in Trieste).
Two Hungarian clubs have Champions League trophies in their treasuries, unlike the other quarterfinalists.
Like Tourcoing, Vasas targeted a spot in the Champions League but failed to reach the Main Round. The Budapest-based team is the favorite in the duel against Sabac. But, Vasas was the favorite in the eight-finals when it played against another Serbian club Crvena Zvezda. The Hungarians won the first match by five goals but barely saved that advantage in Belgrade (they avoided a 5-goal loss by scoring a last-gasp goal). Sabac had never played in the quarterfinals of the LEN competitions before. The Serbs have no pressure, which can be their advantage.
The match Vasas – Sabac in the Komjadi pool will be the overture for another Hungarian-Serbian clash. An hour after the final buzzer in this duel, the Champions League game between Ferencvaros and Novi Beograd will start in the same pool.
Greek Panionios and Romanian Oradea will face off in the fourth pair. Considering the tradition of Greek and Romanian water polo, Panionios is closer to the semifinals than Oradea. But the Romanians have had some good moments in Europe this season. They beat Barcelona in Spain in the 2nd round of the Champions League qualifications. Still, Oradea was stopped in the playoffs round, as well as Panionios.
Interestingly, almost all quarterfinalists had pretty unsuccessful appearances in the domestic competitions last weekend.
Vasas suffered a convincing loss to Ferencvaros (5:10), and Szolnok was surprisingly defeated by Eger (8:9) on Day 10 of the Hungarian League.
Tourcoing disappointed in the French Cup (a 10:20 loss to Marseille in the semifinals and a 6:14 defeat to Noisy-le-Sec in the third-place match).
Sabac won only one point in three Regional League matches in the home pool.
Savona was edged out by Telimar (11:12), while Trieste didn’t surprise Brescia (9:11) in the Italian League.
Oradea lost to Steaua in the final of the Romanian Cup (13:14).
The LEN Euro Cup is an opportunity for these seven clubs to heal the wounds suffered on the domestic stage.
Panionios earned a hard-fought win over Peristeri (9:7) in the Greek League.
Schedule (Wednesday, January 25)
Vasas (Hungary) – Sabac (Serbia) at 18:30
Szolnok (Hungary) – Trieste (Italy) at 19:00
Tourcoing (France) – Savona (Italy) at 19:00
Panionios (Greece) – Oradea (Romania) at 20:00 (19:00 CET)
The return matches are on February 8
LEN Challenger Cup Quarterfinals, 1st leg, Preview
Spain and Turkey will be represented by two teams each in the LEN Challenger Cup quarterfinals. Besides the Turks and the Spaniards, the clubs from Slovakia, Greece, the Netherlands and Germany will battle for the semifinals.
Both Spanish clubs in this stage are the favorites in the quarterfinals. Terrassa, currently in 3rd place in the national championship, will face German Ludwigsburg. Tenerife’s rival will be SKP Kosice (Slovakia).
The Turkish clubs come from Istanbul.
Enka isn’t a club with a rich tradition of international appearances, but it seems it can defeat Het Ravijn (Netherlands). The reigning Dutch champion is in 8th place in the League of the Netherlands. So, it doesn’t have many reasons for optimism. The previous results in LEN cups aren’t encouraging for the Dutch, either.
The other Turkish club, Galatasaray, will have a more demanding task than Enka. Galatasaray’s opponent is Apollon Smyrnis (Greece), which has played better and better. The Greeks are the favorites, but Galatasaray’s victory in an aggregate score wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Ludwigsburg (Germany) – Terrassa (Spain) at 19:30
Enka Istanbul (Turkey) – Het Ravijn (Netherlands) at 18:30 (16:30 CET)
Apollon Smyrnis (Greece) – Galatasaray (Turkey) at 20:00 (19:00 CET)
Tenerife (Spain) – SKP Kosice (Slovakia) at 20:15 (21:15 CET)
The return matches are on February 8