As the field got halved in the opening qualification round of the Champions League two weeks ago, the same will happen this weekend. The difference, however, is that more contenders for the respective top 2 spots in the groups are present, so heated battle can be expected across Europe. A tough and competitive group E in Eger has the home side headlining a group of contenders that include the French squad of Marseille, Italy’s Sport Management and Croatia’s Mornar, each one more than capable of advancing to the play-off round 3. ZF-Eger and Sport Management might be considered favourites, but surely will have a tough task ahead of them.
In group F, in Brescia, more or less three sides are regarded contenders. The home fans will expect nothing less than seeing AN Brescia going through, but OSC and Sintez Kazan will be expected to fight hard to join the Italians. Kazan is known to be able to make life hard of any top team any day finishing 2nd but only on goal difference, to Sport Management, in round 1. OSC edged Germany’s Waspo 12-11 in round 1 to win group B and showed their potential by beating Hungarian reigning champions Szolnok 11-14 in round 2 of the Hungarian championships, where they now lead group A undefeated after 3 rounds, together with Vasas. For the young team of Red Star Belgrade, the experienced is much needed to get the team in rhythm for the challenges ahead this season, mainly in the domestic and regional competition, while also shaping the guys and letting them experience what the near-top level of European club water polo looks like.
The final two groups will see domestic battles, always special when playing a European tournament. In Herceg Novi a pretty levelled field has Germany’s Waspo 98 Hannover and home side Jadran regarded favourites but Vouliagmeni and fellow Germans ASC Duisburg have the same ambition: making it to round 3. It will be interesting to see what the young team of Vouliagmeni is capable of doing while Waspo and Duisburg are up for a heated meeting also.
In Rijeka, home team Primorje is joined by Spain’s runner-up Sabadell, who are coming off a Spanish Super Cup loss to Barceloneta, and a pair of Romanian finalists, CSM Oradea and Steaua Bucharest. Oradea was a multiple Champions League preliminary round competitor the last years so will not be satisfied by anything less than getting back there once more, while fellow top team Steaua are less experienced as a team, but equally ambitious. And more importantly, also capable looking at the roster that includes multiple Romania internationals, added with names such as driver Adria Delgado, centre-forward Nikola Murisic, Djordje Filipovic and Ivan Krizman. But, as Primorje isn’t the team from last season, now carried by Cosmin Radu, Ante Vukicevic and Ivan Buljubasic, and Sabadell both have kicked off their seasons and can be expected to have gained rhythm, predicting the two teams that will advance out of this group is a tough call to make.
Champions League 2016-2017
Qualification Round 2
October 14-16, 2016
First two seeded sides will qualify for Qualification Round III where the first seeded teams will be drawn with the second-seeded ones and the four winners will reach the Main Round.