Champions League, Main Round, Day 7 – Preview
A couple of crucial match-ups highlight Day 7 and will do Day 8 since these two rounds see virtual home-and-away battles of the same teams. In Group A the next two games of Ferencvaros (HUN) and Brescia (ITA) might be decisive for the top ranks just as the big clash of the round between 2016 champions Jug (CRO) and title-holder Olympiacos (GRE) in Group B.
The Tuesday game of Ferencvaros and Brescia and its rematch in two-week time can easily secure one of the sides’ Final Eight berth provided any of the two can gain back-to-back wins. The other two top teams of the group Recco (ITA) and Barceloneta (ESP) face easier matches, though the Italians’ tour to Moscow seems to a bit more challenging. In the meantime, Eger is set to grab its last chance to reserve some hope for the spring with a possible double win against Crvena Zvezda (SRB).
In the other group, the re-match of the 2016 final between Jug and Olympiacos is the absolute highlight of this round. So far, Jug enjoyed a great run while the Greeks had to gear up after a disastrous start – if the Croats could add another win that would pave their road to finish atop though in the second phase of the prelims they should play away matches in Piraeus, Szolnok, and Busto.
BPM Busto (ITA) can further cement its second place as they meet Jadran which is seemingly the third-ranked side among the Croats though should never be underestimated.
The most heated battle is expected in Szolnok where the 2017 champions and the upcoming Croatian team Mladost will face off in a kind of live-or-die duel. With only the top three teams qualifying from this group – Hannover (GER) has an automatic berth as host of the F8 –, these two games can decide the faith of these two teams. Szolnok, not winning a single match since the opening round, can only catch up with the top three with two wins – and the same applies to Mladost.
The all-German clash of Spandau and Hannover is more about the prestige – though F8 Hannover is seeking its first win after encouraging draws against the best teams of the group.
Champions League, Day 7
18.30 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)
Zsolt Varga, head coach, FTC-Telekom:
“Brescia signed new players at the beginning of the season and became a really great team. Brescia is a very uncomfortable and hard opponent for every side this year.”
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
“We must expect a very hard challenge: the Hungarians are in great condition, they’ve won a lot of titles in a short time and they’ve got a lot of self-confidence. Their line-up is amazing, with two top players such as Denes Varga and Marton Vamos, who can make the difference in every moment. However, I think we can reach a good result: obviously, it is necessary to offer a very high-level performance.”
19.15 Dynamo Moscow (RUS) v Pro Recco (ITA)
Marat Zakirov, head coach, Dynamo:
“We expect worthy results from the coming games against a very strong team. The match will be very hard, but we tuned for a serious game and we have good mood inside our team and we expect great support from our home tribunes.”
Ratko Rudic, coach, Pro Recco:
“Dynamo is a very well prepared team, with players who put a lot of physicality into the water. They have three Serbian players who bring experience, medals, and quality. They are growing game after game, we will have to study them carefully to prepare well and face them to the best of our strength.”
19.15 Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Steaua Bucharest BA (ROU)
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“Having lost against Recco and then drawn with Brescia in our last match, we can’t afford to lose this home game against Steaua if we want to retain our solid position in the classification. Steaua have just lost a match in Moscow with a twelve-goal difference but they’re still a team that we greatly respect, and our aim is to play well and get the three points.”
Iosep Andrei, head coach, Steaua:
“We will meet a very strong team, a contender to win the Champions League this season. We will try to show a different face than we had in Moscow.”
20.30 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v ZF Eger (HUN)
Aleksandar Filipovic, coach, Zvezda:
“Eger is a very strong team, and the game will certainly be really tough. If we want to have a chance in the game we will have to repeat some of our best performances. We have practiced really hard and we will do our best. If we play an organized game in an orderly way, we can achieve a good result.”
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“The match against VK Crvena Zvezda is important for us. In the Regional League, they won against Jug Dubrovnik, so it won't be easy to play against them, but our goal is to win.”
19.00 Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Mladost Zagreb (CRO)
Zivko Gocic, head coach, Szolnok:
“Wednesday evening we are going to have a match between two teams with great identical skills and knowledge. Mladost is a well-built team, with talented young players and with valuable experienced players like Buljubasic, Petkovic, Milos Cuk, and Radu. It will be a tough game, but we will have to win if we want to accomplish our plan to qualify for the next round. We have been working hard recently, as usual, and we are ready for the match.”
Zoran Bajic, coach, Mladost:
“I am sure that the game with Szolnok will be hard for them and us too. For us, it is important that not to fail in Szolnok even as a guest and start to recover those points we lost in Berlin and Hannover. Thus we can set up a match with Sport Management which will determine who will go to the Final 8. We are looking forward to a good game and hope that we will come back home with three points.”
19.00 Spandau 04 (GER) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“Against Spandau, it is always possible to go down, but it doesn’t have to end this way on Wednesday. Maybe Spandau has a different strategy compared to the games before, but we are able to react and to play our match. Unlike in the Szolnok game, all players are in very good physical condition and the morale of the team is also very good. That is why we are prepared to go for three points.”
20.30 BPM Sport Management Busto (ITA) v Jadran Split (CRO)
Marco Baldineti, head coach, Banco BPM Sport Management:
“I have seen their matches (Jadran Split), it’s a team that plays well and certainly not a team to be underestimated, but rather one to be taken into high consideration. This is a clever team which for sure will be a very difficult opponent for us and we hope to be able to earn home the same results as we’ve done already this year. They have a lot of good players including Aljosa Kunac who was with me in the team when I trained at Nervi.”
Ivan Asic, coach, Jadran Split:
“We are going to give our best shot against the Italian team. They are one of the strongest teams in Europe and they are favorites in this match. My players did a good job to beat POSK 17-7 in the Regional League and we feel we can play a good match against anyone. We are going to drive to Italy, it’s always exhausting to be on the road, but we are used to it.”
20.30 Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“Although we have six wins after six rounds, our next opponent will show us how strong we really are since the European Champion is coming. We are not misled by their slow start in this edition of the Champions League, they still have enough depth in their team to repeat last year success. Whatsoever, they even made good adjustments in the team. So I see them among the three top contenders for winning a trophy again. Every point against them would be precious.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“The game against Jug in Dubrovnik is very important for us. We know that it will be very difficult in their home where Jug is unbeatable at the moment, but if we play according to our potential we can have a good result this time. This is the last game of the first round and we know that the following games will be very important for the qualification, just like this one.”