Everything is still on the line heading into the second legs of the Champions League quarter-finals.
Two of the eight quarter-finalists will already believe they can book their tickets for the final-four competition, but in the world’s best women’s club competition, nothing can be taken for granted.
Five-time champion Sabadell and two-time runner-up Dunaujvaros have sizeable first-leg cushions to defend against SIS Roma and CE Mediterrani, respectively. They both look set to take the first two final-four berths, but who joins them though, if indeed they both progress, hangs delicately in the balance.
The game of the day on ‘Super Saturday’ was definitely Mataro’s stunning away victory in Piraeus against Olympiacos.
Dani Ballart’s team won by two goals on the night (9-11), handing Olympiacos their first defeat of the season in all competitions. The defeat not only ended Olympiacos’ unbeaten run, but it also was the first time the Spaniards had ever beaten Olympiacos, having lost the previous two meetings.
“Our win in Piraeus is in the past” the Mataro coach told us. “Saturday’s game will be all about the mindset”.
“Tickets have been sold out since Tuesday. You never know what opportunities may arise from taking this second step”, he added.
The reigning champions face an uphill climb in the second leg, but the Red-Whites have progressed to the semifinals of the Champions League in six of the last seven tournaments, a formidable record that will not be easily broken.
Mataro come into this game off the back of an agonising Copa de la Reina final defeat to Sabadell, but they will be all too aware that they have a golden opportunity to dethrone one of the most dominant teams in the last ten years. If the Marsesme start anything like we know they can, they could be well on their way to reaching the Champions League semi-finals for only the second time in their history.
A team that is no stranger to progressing deep in the Champions League is Ekipe Orizzonte. The reigning Italian champions are the competition’s most successful club, having lifted the trophy eight times from their twenty final-four appearances.
Martina Miceli, who won nine Euro League titles as a player with Ekipe, saw her team edge out Glyfada by a single score in the first leg (14-13). With the Italians’ form improving in the past few weeks, they will be the bookies’ favourites to progress to the semi-finals at Glyfada’s expense.
For the Ekipe head coach, the home advantage is significant in defender their lead:
“We are excited to play back at our home. We know that the public can give us a big boost. We are ready to give our best: it will be a battle”
The Greeks, who have two Euro League titles to their name (2000 & 2003), have been in a bit of a slump recently, but know that the tie is not dead. Their success in this competition thus far is owed to a series of excellent defensive displays, and while that was not evident in the first leg, it will be crucial to restore their form without the ball if they are to turn the tide in the second leg. The deficit is only one goal, so even the smallest of victory’s could be valuable.
Sabadell were simply too strong for SIS Roma at Can Llong in the first leg of their quarter final, and last weekend’s Copa de la Reina champions boast an insurmountable five goal lead from the first leg (15-10).
In the first leg, Roma started too slowly, and appeared galvanised by the whole occasion. They have an opportunity at home though to show why they are currently top of the Italian A1.
History is certainly not on the Italian’s side though, as Roma have never beaten Sabadell in their three previous meetings. They not only need to win, but they need to win big. Put simply, Marco Capanna’s team needs a miracle in Rome if they are to prevent their European adventure from coming to an abrupt end.
Roma’s coach, Marco Capanna, remains optimistic:
“We have the pleasure, the honour, the stimulus and the right courage for this quarter-final. In the first game we conceded too much, but we have have a game plan. The girls should enjoy it”
And finally, despite a few concerning signs in the last few weeks in the Hungarian league, Dunaujvaros are strong favourites to finish off Mediterrani at Eva Fabo.
If you had to pick at the start of the season which of the four Hungarian teams would reach this stage of the Champions League, Dunaujvaros might not have been the obvious choice. But now, they are primed to book a spot in the Champions League semi-final
Attila Mihok’s side were more than deserving of their 13-9 first-leg win in Barcelona, but with dropped points in their last two domestic fixtures – which included a surprise defeat to Eger yesterday – the form ahead this clash has been less than sparkling for the Orange and Blues.
Marian Diaz has to believe that her team can take full advantage of Ujvaros’ recent wobble, but it’s been a quarter of a century since Mediterrani made the final-four, something that doesn’t look like changing now.
Should Ujvaros return to the final-four, it will return one of the women’s games great clubs back to where it belongs. At the turn of the millennium, Dunaujvaros made the Champions League semi-finals five times in a row. However, it took them fifteen years without an appearance before returning to the final-four again in 2021.
Champions League Quarter-finals, 2nd legs
12:45 – CN Mataro (11) – (9) Olympiacos
17:00 – Ekipe Orizzonte (14) – (13) ANO Glyfada
17:00 – Dunaujvaros (13) – (9) CE Mediterrani
20:00 – SIS Roma (10) – (15) Astralpool Sabadell
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