The third quarterfinal match will be the clash between the hosts, water polo giant Pro Recco and their national contender Brescia. While the odds are not on Brescia’s side, their tight defense just might become a real challenge for Italy’s most successful team, who are way overdue for another Champions League title.
Pro Recco is always among the favorites to win the Champions League, especially since they are playing on home turf. They won their group rather easily with only one defeat, a “slip up” against reigning champions Szolnok. Vujasinovic is a truly fine coach, and unlike some others in the past, he got another chance to lead the team after last year’s failure against Jug in the semi-finals.
That has given him precious time to re-evaluate the squad and build it the way he wants. While it is not completely set up the main parts are there. Some experienced players left (Figlioli, Pijetlovic), Sukno got his contract terminated due to heart problems – that’s why Vujasinovic started rebuilding the squad, to begin with.
For the upcoming season, they already acquired Bijac and Renzuto from Jug, as well as Mourikis from Olympiacos. Further probable signings are Cupido (USA) and Velotto (Canottieri Napoli). They are the only team (along with Jadran HN) with 3 left handed players (Echenique, Mandic, Filipovic) which allows the much more maneuver space than any other team. Versatile players like Ivovic and Molina fill the gaps in various positions, which is Recco’s true strength.
We are hard-pressed to find a few downsides to this impressive sqaud: Tempesti is not the same goalkeeper he used to be. He may have become the weakest spot in this team. Aicardi, as the first center forward, is injured quite often, which would be the main reason for the acquisition of Mourikis next season. Bodegas, who should be center no. 2, is often playing as a guard, and that exhausts him a lot. You will see Mandic and Molina playing as centers inside from a winger position quite frequently which tells us a lot.
One other issue they might face is if Filipovic opens the match with a couple of missed shots, resulting in him playing self-serving, forcing the shot and making the team suffer.
On the other side, we have Brescia. A team that has changed just a bit in the last couple of seasons and their main strength is coach Bovo who is doing an exceptional job with a limited budget.
Brescia is playing a strong defense – they will rarely win a match with many goals even though they have some big names like M. Janovic, Paskovic, Rizzo, Muslim, etc. Petar Muslim plays as a center forward, a role which he started with years ago before he was re-positioned on the left back. He is Brescia’s driving force on the attack. His partner is Vukicevic, a strong center, who never played to his potential, but has had a solid season so far.
Christian Presciutti and Mladjan Janovic are always a threat to any goalie, while Paskovic and Nora can do some damage on the other side. Nora is defensively a weak spot but as a left-hander, he gets his time and space up front, especially in man-up situations, despite having a weak shot.
They rotate a lot of guards, but against Pro Recco, it will be a tough challenge as there won’t be the usual Italian referees who often favor their side as the underdog in the national competitions.
This year Recco won all encounters, and this one shouldn’t be a problem for them. They come from winning both trophies vs. Brescia in the finals, while refereeing was largely against them. Muslim will have a hard time fighting Ivovic and Janovic. Presciutti won’t be able to keep up with the swimming of younger, faster, and even stronger players on the right side of Pro Recco.
To be honest, the same goes for the other side as well. ‘On paper’ Pro Recco looks like a much stronger team, and we expect them to show it in the pool. No biased refereeing, so it should be at least 4-5 goals difference for the home team.
Pro Recco - 75%
Brescia - 25%