Champions League

Highlights in Barcelona and Pireaus, a lot of emotion in Belgrade

Photo: LEN facebook

The matches in Pireaus and in Barcelona are the highlights of the 5th round of the Champions league. Olympiacos, the leader in Group A, will host Hungarian OSC in Pireaus. Audience in Barcelona will see the clash between  Barceloneta and Eger, the two clubs pretending to win the 3rd or maybe the 2nd place in Group B. In other matches it is clear who the favourites are.

Group A

Tuesday, February 7:

18.30 Olympiacos Pireaus (GRE) vs. OSC Budapest (HUN)

Josip Pavic (Olympiacos) Photo: LEN/facebook

It has always been hard to beat Olympiacos at the Papastrateio pool. Greeks, the runners-up in the Champions league last season, hasn’t lost in Pireaus since April 2015, when they were defeated by Pro Recco. OSC started this season with big ambitions, by bringing several excellent players, among them are Serbian Slobodan Nikic, Slovakian Lucas Seman… Hungarian club isn’t without chances in Greece. By winning at least one point they would be satisfied for sure.

Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos, says:

“The game against OSC Budapest is very important for us. This is the last game of the first half and after 10 days we will play again against the Budapest side, the result of these two games will determine the future of us and OSC in the group. I hope that in our home, with our supporters, we could take the win in order to get closer to our target to remain in the first place of the group!”

Giannis Fountoulis, player, Olympiacos:

“This is a critical game, we play against a team whose target is to qualify to the Final Six. But the game is in our home and we have to play according to our possibilities and win the game, in order to remain unbeaten.  We need our supporters and I hope the swimming pool will be sold out.”

Wednesday, February 8:

18.00 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) vs. Spandau 04 (GER)

Hungarian champion Szolnok did a good job in previous rounds of Champions league. Hungarians beat OSC and Brescia at their pools. In Szolnok they won point against Olympiacos and defeated Nice. If they win tomorrow they’ll stay on the right way, in the chase for the 1st place. Two years ago it was an easy ride for them, they beat the Germans 11-7 at home and 17-7 in Berlin. Germans don’t have big chances to win at least a point in Hungary, but nothing is impossible.

Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok, says:

“The team of Spandau became much stronger in this season. This also means that opponents take them seriously. They played very tight games with OSC, Olympiacos and Brescia. We must take the Wednesday match very seriously and win the encounter and also the return match in ten days time.”

Peter Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:

“I would like to see that we are able to perform well over four quarters. So far we have had problems this season to keep the concentration over the full distance. Of course we would like to win in Szolnok but a straight performance is even more important for us. We would like to show the potential of the team.”

19.30 Olympic Nice (ITA) vs. AN Brescia (ITA)

Olympic Nice, the only team who didn’t gain any point, will host Brescia, Italian vice-champion. Guests are outstanding favourites, but in the four previous rounds they didn’t show too much. So, maybe this match can be the opportunity for Nice to surprise fans.

Manuel Laversanne, captain, Nice:

“In our first year in the LEN Champions League it’s difficult to get good results but we will give the best of ourselves especially at home in front of our fans,”

Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:

“We go to Nice to win, without agenda, without looking at the standings. We understand very well that winning will not be easy: after all we are in the Champions League and winning an away game is always complicated. However, we want to be in the hunt to qualify for the finals and we will do everything possible to get the three points.”

 

Group B

Wednesday, February 8:

18.30 Partizan Belgrade (SRB) vs. Pro Recco (ITA)

The clash between Partizan and Pro Recco in Belgrade will be the game with a lot of emotion. Pro Recco comes with four persons that Partizan’s fans love and respect. The head coach of Pro Recco Vladimir Vujasinovic is the legend of both clubs. He won the Champions league as a player of Pro Recco and as Partizan’s captain. Since 2012 to 2016 he was Partizan’s coach, and after winning the „double crown“ in Serbia (national championships and Cup) last summer he left to Recco. Three players of Pro Recco, Olympic champions Filip Filipovic, Dusko Pijetlovic and Dusan Mandic, also like Vujasinovic, left an indelible mark in Partizan. Pro Recco, one of the biggest favourites for the Champions league trophy is a strong team, but the guests from Genova are cautious.

Filip Filipovic, MVP and the best scorer at the 2016 Olympics, says:

“Every team, even Pro Recco, mustn’t come to the game against Partizan in Belgrade with thinking: „It will be easy to win“. Partizan has super talented players, who want to prove themselves. On the other side, we are not on the top of our form and some of our players are little tired, because during the last month we played eight games. So, I expect an interesting match.

Sandro Sukno and Aleksandar Ivovic will miss the match against Partizan, but all three Serbs will be in the team.

Zoran Milenkovic, head coach of home team, who played with Filipovic in Partizan’s younger categories, talks about Recco with big respect:

Vlada, thank you (Partizan’s fans at the last Vujasinovic’s game on the bench of Partizan last year) Photo: Ivan Curcic

” We are honored to host the great team of Pro Recco, with excellent players and stuff. We are especially glad that with Recco have come Vladimir Vujasinovic, Filip Filipovic,  Dusko Pijetlovic and Dusan Mandic. We don’t need to talk who is the favourite in this match. Pro Recco is much stronger than us in this moment. The match against the club, which is composed to win the Champions league, will be a big school for Partizan’s young players. If we show a good game, we will get a big motive for the upcoming period. With the support of our fans it would be much easier for us, so I invite our fans to support Partizan’s young team and to greet the great players of Pro Recco”

Vladimir Vujasinovic, coach, Pro Recco says that his team is in Belgrade since Sunday, for a common training with Partizan, and explains:

“That was my wish for this year. Partizan is a club that has done so much good in the history of water polo and I’m sorry they’re living a difficult moment. Hope they can overcome it quickly.”

19.00 Jug Dubrovnik (CRO) vs Waspo Hannover (GER)

Jug is a big favourite against Hannover. Title holders don’t have big chances for the first place, held by Pro Recco. Also, they don’t have a huge advance over followers Barceloneta and Eger, so they mustn’t make mistakes, especially at their pool. Hannover, debutant in the Champions league, has players with big experience. Germans showed that they can make surprise, they won point against Barceloneta.

Only worry for Jug’s coach Kobescak is goalkeeper Marko Bijac’s injury. Still is not sure will he wear the cap with number one.

Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:

“We will play a match against a tough opponent. In this moment, Waspo is the best team in Germany and we need to respect that. We need to be at the highest level possible. Three points are crucial this moment so we will give everything to win this match.”

Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:

“We are looking forward to play against Jug Dubrovnik, one of the best teams in Europe. It will be an exciting and very challenging match. After winning the German Cup a week before my team is at the top of its game and highly motivated. If we play concentrated and disciplined in the way we played the last matches it’s possible to stage a real challenge.”

19.15 CNA Barceloneta (ESP) vs. ZF Eger (HUN)

Barceloneta, the 2014 winner of the Champions league, this season tries to clinch a spot at Final six for the 4th time in the row. This season it is tough mission. Pro Recco and Jug are the best teams in Group A. Eger is, as a host, already qualified for the Final Six (like Barceloneta 2014 and 2015).

But, Spanish champion is still in the race for the 2nd place in Group. Winning the upcoming game against Eger is necessary for them. Hungarian club is relaxed, because they don’t have to worry about their spot at the Final six. In the last two years both matches played in Barcelona ended in a draw (7-7, 6-6), while Eger won at home (11-6, 6-5).

Chus Martín, head coach, Barceloneta:

“It’s the most important game of the season. Eger is a very strong team, both teams know each other very well because in the last four years we have played in the same group. They have lost very good players like Szivos, Biros, Zalanki but the newcomers are also vey good. I think it will be a very levelled game, we are playing home so we have certain advantage. I hope our fans will lead us to victory. We want to reach the Final Six again so this two games against Eger will be very important for us.”

Norbert Dabrowski, head coach ZF-Eger:

“In the past years we were in the same group. When we played in Barcelona, the results were a draw in the last two years. The games against Barceloneta are very important, because they will answer who will qualify to the Final Six. We want to win.”

Balint Lorincz, player ZF-Eger:

“Ever since we started working in 2017, we have waited for this game. We trained hard to be in good shape for 8 February. This is the most important match for us. I hope we can return home victoriously.”

(Quotes sources LEN & websites of participating clubs)

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