In the next few weeks, we will know all champions in the major European leagues.
The regular seasons or playoffs are coming to an end in all countries.
The land of the European champions will get a new champion soon, and it may even be the first national champion in the continent this season (depending on the number of games in the final).
The final of the playoffs (best-of-five) in the Croatian Championships starts tomorrow. The reigning champion Jug and Jadran Split are once again, for the second season in a row, the protagonists of the final battles in the national championship.
The upcoming matches will be this season’s “Fourth Act” of the games for the trophies between Jug and Jadran.
They have faced off in three finals this season, with Jug emerging as the winner in all three encounters. The first final was a match for prestige, a game for the first-ever Super Cup held in Zadar, which Jug won 14:11. That loss wasn’t as painful for Jadran as the next one. Jug beat Jadran convincingly in the Croatian Cup final – 10:5. After this failure, Jadran’s head coach Mile Smodlaka resigned and was replaced by Jure Marelja. The third final was the most exciting and Jug won again, defeating Jadran in the Regional League final in Belgrade after the penalty shootout (14:12).
The series starts in Split on Saturday evening. Host Jadran aims to win its first-ever title as the Croatian champion.
Jadran is the only club that played in the final of the Croatian League that hasn’t won the title yet. The Split-based club was the champion of Yugoslavia nine times and won the Champions League twice. Still, since Croatia became and independent country, Jadran has clinched only one domestic trophy. It happened last year when Jadran won the Croatian Cup, beating Jug in the final.
5 Jadran has played in five finals of the Croatian Championship but hasn’t won a trophy yet.
The team from Split has played in the final five times (1992, 1993, 1994,1997 and 2022). Mladost was better than Jadran In the four finals in the 1990s. Last year, Jug won the trophy after the fourth match against Jadran in the best-of-five series. The last game ended in a shootout.
Jadran chases its first Croatian title, while Jug wants to improve its record. The giant from Dubrovnik, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, is the most successful club in the history of the Croatian Championships, with 17 trophies. The most decorated Croatian player Maro Jokovic, still one of Jug’s key players, contributed to winning 14 of these 17 titles. He is an absolute record-holder in the number of national titles in Croatia among the players.
14 Maro Jokovic has won 14 titles of Croatian champion playing for Jug
The final of the national league is Jadran’s last chance to cinch a trophy this season. Jug has won three trophies (more than it was expected) and, unlike Jadran, has realistic chances of reaching the Champions League Final Eight.
Considering the tradition and this season’s games, Jug is the favorite. However, Jadran did a great job by beating the Dubrovnik-based side in the league match, securing itself a home-field advantage at the opening of the final, in the third and eventual fifth match.
The head coaches, Vjekoslav Kobescak, who led Jug to six titles of the Croatian Championships, and Jadran’s Jure Marelja, who debuted on Jadran’s bench in December, have excellent players on the rosters. It would be wrong to assign one team the role of the favorite in the upcoming final, as the two clubs have proven themselves of similar quality.The first match will be played in Split on Saturday (20:00). The second match is on April 30 in Dubrovnik, and the third in Spit on May 3. If needed, the fourth game will be played in Dubrovnik on May 9 and the fifth in Split on May 17.
All champions: Jug 17, Mladost 11, Primorje Rijeka 2, POSK Split 1.