Before the start of the season, many foresaw that two Champions League clubs, Novi Beograd and Radnicki, would play in the finals of the Serbian Cup and League.
However, the predictions come true just partially. Novi Beograd qualified for both finals. In the final of the national Cup, Novi Beograd lost to Crvena Zvezda. The same teams will face off in the final of the Serbian Championships.
The final (best of three) begins tomorrow. Novi Beograd, the defending champion and the 1st-placed team in the regular season, will be the host in the first and the eventual third match.
Novi Beograd entered the season with high ambitions and as the favorite for trophies in all competitions. It missed two opportunities to lift the trophy. After the mentioned defeat to Crvena Zvezda in the Serbian Cup final, it didn’t reach the final of the Regional League. Two chances for the trophies are left – the Serbian League and the Champions League.
As for Crvena Zvezda, the Red Whites didn’t have enormous pressure before the season. They weren’t in a circle of the big favorites. Still, their team, composed of experienced and young players, who have been together on the team for a long, has proved it had the quality to go high. Crvena Zvezda played well in the LEN Euro Cup. It reached the eight-finals, losing by one goal in the aggregate score to Vasas, the eventual winner.
3:1 Novi Beograd have met four times this season. Novi Beograd defeated Red Whites three times – twice in the regular season of the Serbian League (15:7 and 10:7) and once in the Regional League (18:8), but Crvena Zvezda recorded a win in the most important match so far. It beat Novi Beograd in the final of the Serbian Cup – 11:10.
Both teams have had turbulent seasons. Novi Beograd didn’t play as expected. Everything culminated after the loss in the Regional League semifinals. Since then, Novi Beograd has played without Dusan Mandic. Crvena Zvezda changed the coach in the middle of the season, just two weeks before the Final Four of the Serbian Cup. Dejan Savic resigned. He was replaced by Aleksandar Filipovic. But, the results show that the change of coach didn’t have a negative impact on the team.
Novi Beograd didn’t achieve its first two goals in the season. It failed to win the Serbian Cup and the Regional League. The final of the Serbian League is the reigning champion’s new opportunity to win the first trophy this season. The crown in the Serbian League would bring Novi Beograd much self-confidence before the Champions League Final Eight in Belgrade (May 30 – June 2).
Crvena Zvezda has exceeded expectations. The Red Whites don’t have pressure and the burden of the favorite in the final, and that should be their advantage. Of course, nobody lacks motivation in the matches for the national title.
Crvena was the champion of Yugoslavia twice (1992 and 1993). Since Serbia became an independent state, Crvena Zvezda has won two titles of the national champion – in the great season 2012/13 (when it won all trophies it could – the Champions League, LEN Super Cup and the domestic “double crown”) and in the following season 2013/2014. The Red Whites have been the runners-up in the Serbian League six times (always behind Partizan).
Novi Beograd, with many stars on the team, is the favorite, as it was in the previous final. Still, Crvena Zvezda has its chance, and its victory wouldn’t be a huge surprise, considering the shape and the results this season.
Novi Beograd doesn’t have problems with injuries at the moment. Crvena Zvezda’s experienced center-forward Milos Vukicevic has been out of the team for several weeks due to injury. He missed the semifinals against Radnicki. It’s still questionable if he will be able to help the team in the final.The final begins tomorrow (May 10) with the game at Novi Beograd’s pool (20:00). The next match is scheduled for May 17. Crvena Zvezda will be the host. If the result in the series is 1:1 after two matches, Novi Beograd will welcome Crvena Zvezda in the third game on May 20.
The series of matches for the bronze medal (best of three) between Radnicki and Partizan starts this evening in Kragujevac (20:00).
All champions of Serbia (2007 – 2022): Partizan 10, Crvena Zvezda 2, Sabac 1, Radnicki 1, Novi Beograd 1.