Three Croatian and one Serbian club will battle this weekend for the title in the 13th edition of the Regional League.
Mladost, the reigning champion, will host the Final Four tournament in Zagreb. Besides the home team, Croatian champion Jug, Jadran Split, and Serbian League leader Radnicki Kragujevac will take part.
Today, Mladost and Radnicki will face off in the first semifinal (17).
The second match will be an encounter between Jug and Jadran Split (20)
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At first sight, Mladost, which seeks its third title in a row, and Jug, are the favorites, but Radnicki and Jadran also have their chances.
Radnicki was the surprising team of this season’s Champions League qualifications. The Kragujevac-based side finished 2nd in the group in Budapest. Mladost was also very close to the Preliminary phase of the CHL, as it won 2nd place in the qualification group in Syracuse. After they were eliminated from the Champions League, the two clubs continued their European campaigns in the LEN Euro Cup, and both finished the season on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Mladost lost to Vouliagmeni in a very balanced duel that was ended after a penalty shootout in the 2nd leg. Radnicki fought hard, but it couldn’t surprise Szolnok and lost by two goals in the aggregate score (22:24).
Mladost will play without Konstantin Kharkov, who is still injured, but Ante Viskovic has recovered, and he will probably play today.
“I expect a tough match against a very good team of Radnicki. We know everything about their quality, they are a good and well-organized team. They are disciplined, but also aggressive when it is needed. We have to do our best to reach the final game. I hope that Viskovic will help us in the team, but Kharkov’s absence is irreplaceable. Still, we have to be optimistic and ready for the challenge – Zoran Bajic, the head coach of the home team, said.
Radnicki will play at the Final Four for the second time. In the season 2014/15, Radnicki finished 3rd.
“It is a great honor for us to play again at the Final Four after six years, especially because we play against Mladost. We respect our rivals. Mladost finished the European season earlier than expected. However, they were eliminated for objective reasons because they played without two key players. But, the early finish of the European season can provoke a positive reaction from our opponent. They are great champions and national team players. We have been playing in a hard rhythm of two matches per week for a while. The fact that we have many young players may be our advantage to keep the freshness, desire, and aggression that we have had throughout the season. We see our chance, but Mladost is a favorite, especially in Zagreb”, Radnicki coach Uros Stevanovic said.
Mladost and Radnicki haven’t played each other this season.
Jug and Jadran faced last week, and Jadran upset the Croatian champion with a 15:13 victory in Dubrovnik.
Jug coach Vjekoslav Kobescak says that all four teams can win the trophy:
“We have suffered several defeats in March; some of them were very big and unexpected. We lost a little bit of confidence in ourselves a little bit. But, I hope that we will get back on the right track. In my opinion, all four teams have chances of winning that tournament. Considering that we can’t assess our shape at the moment and that Mladost is incomplete, it is sure that both Radnicki and Jadran have their chances. I expect an uncertain tournament and great water polo.”
Mile Smodlaka, the head coach of Jadran, comments:
“I expect one of the most interesting Regional League Final Four tournaments in the last few years. During the season, we saw that all four teams are balanced. As Jadran’s coach, I have the right to hope for a good result in our clash with Jug because we defeated them seven days ago. That win was a turning point for us psychologically. We realized that we could beat Jug.”
Mladost – Radnicki (17)- follow live on Total Waterpolo Arena
Jug – Jadran S (20) – follow live on Total Waterpolo Arena
2009: Jug, 2010: Jadran HN, 2011: Jadran HN, 2012: Pro Recco, 2013: Primorje, 2014: Primorje, 2015: Primorje, 2016: Jug, 2017: Jug, 2018: Jug, 2019: Mladost, 2020:Mladost