The reigning European champion Pro Recco has been the Champions League record-holder since 2015, when it became the first club with 8 European titles. In the last two years, the Italian giant added two more trophies.
Today, it will start a chase for the 11th trophy, but for another record. If Recco clinches the title, it will become only the second club to win three back-to-back European crowns. So far, only Mladost Zagreb has achieved that feat (1967/68 – 1969/70).
Recco will face Ferencvaros this evening (20:30), in the last match of quarterfinal day of the Champions League Final Eight in Belgrade.
Recco didn’t arrive at the Final Eight (Final Six) as a group winner this season. It hadn’t happened since the season 2013/14.
The title-holder finished 2nd in Group A behind Barceloneta and ahead of Olympiacos. It secured 2nd place only in the last round after beating Olympiacos. In fact, in the end, it can be concluded that Recco was only one goal far from 1st place. If the match Recco – Barceloneta had ended in a draw (the Spaniards won 9:8), the Italians would have finished 1st.
“Barceloneta deserved 1st place, and we deserved 2nd. I don’t regret 1st place. From my point of view, there is no big difference between 1st and 2nd place. First place isn’t a significant advantage”, Pro Recco’s head coach Sandro Sukno told Total Waterpolo.
“We will play against a tough opponent in the quarterfinals. However, all games at the Final Eight will be exciting and interesting, especially the four ones in the quarterfinals. It’s important to enter the Final Eight well. The team that adapts for the tournament best and quickly will have an easier task. Each of the eight teams deserves respect. We all passed a long way to the Final Eight. We played 14 rounds. The season was long. Each team is waiting for its opportunity and has a chance. Therefore we have to respect all the rivals.”
I Pro Recco was the team with the best offense in the group stage. The European champion scored 192 goals. At the same time, Recco had the best goal difference of all 16 participants in the group stage (192:102). Barceloneta had the second-best goal difference (169:100)
As always, Pro Recco is considered one of the biggest or maybe the favorite No.1
“Pro Recco is always seen as the favorite for a reason. It’s true that I have quality players on the team and I don’t want to escape from the role of the favorite. However, it’s still early to think about the end of the tournament. In the days before the F8, we prepared the tactics only for the match against Ferencvaros in the quarterfinals. We are completely focused on that game.”
Pro Recco had a very strong rhythm of the games in the last two weeks before the Final Eight, unlike the remaining seven teams. It played three very demanding matches within eight days. The Italian champion beat Brescia in two games in the final of the Italian Championships and, after that, it welcomed Olympiacos in the decisive game for 2nd place in Group A of the Champions League.
Other rivals had more time to rest and prepare for the tournament because they finished their national championships earlier and (or) played the games without competitive importance in the last round of the CHL group stage.
Such a rhythm can be a double-edged sword. The team can get tired. Every additional day for rest or preparations is a big benefit at the finish of a packed season like the current is. But, Sukno sees only positive things:
“I am satisfied because we arrived at the Final Eight after three demanding games. You can always learn from your mistakes against quality rivals and advance in shape. Fatigue won’t be aggravating factor. We finished the Italian final in two games and had more time to prepare for the Champions League. I hope that we will qualify for the semifinals. It’s our first goal.”
The hurdle on the road to the first goal is very high. There is no need to mention that Ferencvaros is a quality team. But, the tradition is on Recco’s side. The European champion defeated Ferencvaros at the previous two Final Eights (in the semifinals in 2022 and the final a year before). Three goals separated the rivals in both games.
“Ferencvaros is a typical representative of the Hungarian water polo style. They have no fear and attempt to score at every single opportunity. The team has an “attacking instinct”. All players are good shooters, and that is their most significant quality. They had a very interesting goalkeeper. All in all, it’s a very well-composed team that plays modern water polo.”, Sukno said at the end.
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