Six teams return to the best eight from last year, while Vouliagmeni and Sant Andreu managed to join the top flight – the Greeks are back after three years while the Spaniards will play their first quarter-final in their history. The biggest casualty of the prelims in Dunaujvaros, the Super Cup winner side couldn’t make the cut this time.
There was no headache for title-holder Kirishi (RUS), four-time winner Sabadell (ESP), 2015 champion Olympiacos (GRE) and 2016 runner-up UVSE (HUN) – the four sides topped their respective groups by remaining undefeated. Kinef and Sabadell reached the Final Four in the last four years while the other two sides qualified for three out of four editions.
UVSE had the tougher task as it enjoyed the company of Orizzonte (ITA) in its group – the Hungarians won the re-match of the bronze medal clash from last season to secure the top spot. Orizzonte won its remaining matches with ease to advance as well.
Kirishi and Sabadell were no match for the others, behind them the battle for the second qualifying spots was much tougher. Sant Andreu edged out BVSC (HUN) with an 8-7 victory while Vouliagmeni (GRE) came from behind to down the other Hungarian side Dunaujvaros with a 4-1 rush in the fourth period to claim a 13-11 win. The Super Cup winners had to play their three most important matches within 24 hours and that seemed to have taken its toll.
Olympiacos and Padova (ITA) enjoyed an easy cruise before settling for a 9-9 tie in their game on the last day – the goal difference favored the Greeks so they can wait for the draw from the first position.
The draw will be conducted on Tuesday in the LEN Office, Nyon, from 12.00hrs.