This is the rematch of last year’s final where Olympiacos upset host Recco in a great game, the Greek won 9-7 in Genoa to clinch their second title after 2002. Recco is now looking for its 9th title here.
In fact, that was Olympiacos’s first-ever win over Recco in the Champions League, the Italians won all 6 matches played before.
Their first game in this competition dates back to 1970, Recco beat Olympiacos 7-0 in a round robin tournament in the best eight stage.
Next was a semi-final in 2007, in Milano, Recco won 10-9.
After that they met in the prelims in 2014, Recco won 9-7 and 12-6 – then in 2015, Recco won with ease, 17-12 at home and 12-8 in Piraeus. So the head-to-head stands 6-1.
Recco is now 15/15 in this season’s Champions League after beating Hannover in the quarter-finals 14-10.
Olympiacos had some ups and downs in the prelims but they won their last 6 matches, so by beating Brescia 8-7 in the QF yesterday, they are in a 7-game winning streak now.
Since the introduction of the current format (F4/6/8), Recco played 13 semi-finals, won 10 and lost 3. Until 2016, their winning ratio stood at 9-1 (that only loss came in 2005, against Posillipo in Naples). Then in 2016 and 2017 Jug beat them surprisingly before Recco hit back last June in their third straight SF against the Croats.
This is the 6th semi-final for Olympiacos, they won 4 out of 5, their only loss came in 2007 against Recco. They won the SF 7-6 against Posillipo Naples in 2001, 8-5 against Jug 2002, 8-7 against Szolnok in 2016 and 6-4 against Barceloneta last year.
In its 14-10 quarter-final win, Recco had to face only the second double-digit score by an opponent in the current season: the other game when they got 10 or more goals was in Barcelona where Barceloneta netted 11. All other matches saw them conceding 8 goals or less.
Olympiacos got used to the thrills of the quarter-finals, last year they beat Spandau 6-5, now they won 8-7 against Brescia.
Recco’s shooting percentage was 43.8% on Thursday (against Hannover), netting 14 goals from 32 shots. Olympiacos produced 30.8%, 8 goals from 26 shots.
Recco was 5 for 10 in man-ups and got 3 goals from 10 man-downs. Olympiacos was 2 for 9 and 3 from 11.
There will be possibly a special clash of two Croatian goalkeepers: Marko Bijac, world champion in 2017, took over the national team’s red cap from Josip Pavic, Olympic champion in 2012. On Thursday Bijac had 11 saves on 21 shots for 52.4%, while Pavic had 9 on 16 for 56.2%.
Aussie (New Zealand born) centre-forward Joseph Kayes took the first place among Recco’s top scorers with 2 goals against Hannover, he stands with 31. Montenegrin Aleksandar Ivovic had 29, followed by the two Serbian lefties, Filip Filipovic with 27 and Dusan Mandic with 25.
As for Olympiacos, the top scorer of the whole preliminary round Konstantinos Genioudias added one goal to have 35, next is Alexandros Gounas with 30, Ioannis Fountoulis comes with 23 and Paulo Obradovic with 17. Though worth noting that the top three Greek players could score 3 goals from a combined of 14 shots against Brescia (Fountoulis was 1 for 7).
Note that in London 2012 Recco’s current head coach Ratko Rudic led the Croatian team to Olympic gold which featured the three Croatians who are now playing for Olympiacos, Josip Pavic, Paulo Obradovic and Andro Buslje.
To highlight the time-frame of Ratko Rudic’s legendary career: he coached Perica Bukic to Olympic greatness in 1984 and 1988 (then as Yugoslavia), and now he is coaching his son, Luka Bukic in Recco.
Recco has 9 players in its current squad who played in last year’s final against the Greeks (Bijac, Kayes, Dobud, Velotto and Bukic joined the team since), while Olympiacos fields 12 from the winning side in 2018 (only Skoumpakis was not part of the show).