The preliminary competition of the 2017/18 Champions League is coming closer. Tournaments of the second qualification round will be held this weekend. Sixteen teams, split into four groups, will fight the battle for the eight places in the last qualification round.
Eger already in the Preliminary stage
Seventeen teams were in a draw for the second round, but a few days ago, LEN announced that Eger, the vice-champion of Hungary, won’t play in the qualifications. Olympic Nice (France), the only club which didn’t gain at least a point in the 2016/17 CHL, withdrew from competition and returned its wild card. LEN allocated this wild card to Eger. The Hungarian vice-champion was awarded because it took the 4th place in the 2016/17 Champions League and was the best-placed team among clubs which reached the Preliminary Stage through qualifications (without wild card).
Withdrawal of Olympic Nice makes a job much easier for Eger, and for four teams more. Eger was drawn into “group of death” in Budapest with OSC (Hungary, host), Glyfada (Greece), Canottieri Naples (Italy) and Marseille (France). OSC is the outstanding team in the group. After Eger’s absence, all other teams have more or less equal chances to reach the second place and qualify to the third qualification round.
Group E in Zagreb will also see encounters of very good teams. Mladost will host Jadran Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Spartak Volgograd (Russia) and ASC Duisburg (Germany). Jadran is the only among the four sides which have played in the Champions League by the new format (established in 2013). The Montenegrins played excellent in the first qualification round. Mladost, the seven-time winner, hasn’t played in the Champions League since 2011. The Croats want to come back on the European top, but it won’t be so easy. Every team that will play in Zagreb is able to reach the third round.
Brescia strong favourite
Brescia, which took the 5th place in the 2016/17 Champions League, is the strongest favourite in the Group G, where they will meet Sabadell (Spain, host), UZSC Utrecht (The Netherlands) and Mornar Split (Croatia). The teams from Spain and Croatia are competitors for the second place, UZSC is an outsider, but, as always, surprises are possible.
It is hard to predict the teams which can win first two places in Oradea (Romania). Besides Oradea in this group will compete Sintez Kazan (Russia), Vouliagmeni (Greece) and Red Star (Serbia). Red Star (Crvena Zvezda), the 2012/13 Champions League winner, had some ups and downs in past few seasons, but after coach Dejan Savic’s return on the bench and with several additions, the Serbs have big plans. Red Star doesn’t have a team for great achievements on the European stage in this season, but the club can put favourites to the hard tasks. In this group, favourites are Oradea, which played in the 2016/17 Euro Cup final, and Sintez, that won the winning trophy in the same competition in 2007, but Vouliagmeni isn’t outside of the circle of clubs that can advance to the next round.
2017/18 Champions League Qualification Round 2
Group E (Zagreb)
Mladost Zagreb (Croatia)
ASC Duisburg (Germany)
Spartak Volgograd (Russia)
Jadran Herceg Novi (Montenegro)
Group F (Budapest)
OSC Budapest (Hungary)
Canottieri Naples (Italy)
Group G (Sabadell)
UZSC Utrecht (The Netherlands)
Mornar Split (Croatia)
Group H (Oradea)
Crvena Zvezda Belgrade (Serbia)
CSM Oradea (Romania)
Sintez Kazan (Russia)
Top two teams from each group will advance to the third round.