Already on day 2 of the Champions League preliminary stage, some high-profile clashes are scheduled. With the last season Final Six semifinalists meeting again, the battle for the top spot in the respective groups is shaping up. Each of the teams came out from opening day with a win, for Szolnok in the very last second of their match-up with OSC in Budapest, and so a second straight win, over the group’s main rival would surely help. Szolnok got help from Andrija Prlainovic who returned sooner than expected suffering from mononucleosis, scored a goal in last week’s tight win over OSC, and is back in shape already. The team will need its full depth to hold off an Olympiacos squad who impressed in their 8-4 win over Brescia last week.
Meanwhile, Pro Recco is in Dubrovnik taking on Jug in an attempt for revenge on their tough semifinal loss at last year’s Final Six where Jug went on to win the title. Now the two giants clash once more with most of the players still on the respective teams. The win is up for grabs again although Jug might enjoy the home-court advantage. The defending champion is playing for a repeat and facing Recco early in the preliminary stage is only a great test to its ability this season.
Furthermore, in group A it is French side Olympic Nice hosting OSC who are coming off their dramatic loss to Szolnok on day 1. The Hungarians are the clear favourites but know it will not be an easy match-up this weekend. Spandau is another squad that enjoyed a win on day 1 of the prelims last week. Now they face a different challenge when travelling to Brescia who are in search for their first points following the 8-4 loss to Olympiacos.
In group B fellow Germans Waspo host Spain’s favourite Barceloneta and will be looking for redemption after their clear loss to Recco last week. With Barceloneta however, another major challenge pops up for the ambitious German side. Their Montenegrin top players will have to step up in order to keep Barceloneta pressured which might lead to a different game than expected.
The young team of Partizan stays at home welcoming a veteran squad from Hungary, ZF-Eger. For Serbian internationals goalie Branislav Mitrovic and Milos Cuk another return to their home country where an ever-dangerous Partizan team awaits. Over the years the squad became younger but always fought to the end and traditionally accommodates great talent. Therefore no favourite team came away with playing an easy match in the Banjica pool. The same will go for Eger although their Serbian players will know and tell their team-mates. Both teams lost on day 1 so will highly welcome their first points, in case of a win.
Champions League 2016-2017
Saturday, December 10:
18.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Sándor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“We know the playing power of the Greek team. They have great foreign players and players from the national team, though we have a great team as well. We would like to win and continue our journey with the first place as our main target. We have big plans in three different series, but at first, we have to get through this game.
Dávid Jansik, player, Szolnok:
“It is obvious that the Greek team is our biggest opponent in the fight for the first place in our group. We played with them last year in the Final Six where we suffered a very painful defeat. Their team is very strong, which is basically the Greek national team with four excellent foreign players. I think every player will have a very important role in our team. We must do our best in order to achieve success.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“Szolnok is one of the best teams in our group, so this game would be one of the toughest at this stage. I believe that we are well prepared for this game and we will do our best to fight for the win.”
Christodoulos Kolomvos, player, Olympiacos:
“Every game in the Champions League is a hard one. The match against Szolnok maybe is the hardest one in the group stage, but I believe in my team and our work we put in practice. We feel that we are ready for this game and we will do our best.”
19.30 Olympic Nice (FRA) v A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN)
Samuel Nardon, head coach, Nice:
“It’s a great challenge for us to play our second match with OSC Budapest. We need to raise our level of play further and be determined to progress at every game.”
Balázs Vincze, head coach, OSC:
“Our goal is to win in Nice. We respect ONN and their players, including a couple of French national team players, but if we play a strong defensive game we can build on the offensive side, then we’ll be able to transform that into a winning result on Saturday.”
Dávid Bisztritsányi, captain, OSC:
“We think that the key to having a good game and good performance is up to our own team. We need to focus on ourselves and on our strengths. We are determined to keep the best players of Nice on low scoring, but we don’t want to overthink this match.”
20.00 AN Brescia (ITA) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
“After the loss in Athens we want to set the matter right: we have to win, especially because we play at home. In comparison with last year, Spandau has got stronger: the Germans have a very experienced coach and they’re a strong team, but we have to gain three points, for us, it’s a basic.”
Alessandro Nora, player, Brescia:
“The preliminary round excitements of the Champions League return to our swimming pool and we’re ready for the great appointment. It will be a hard task but we have no chance, we have to win.”
Petar Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:
“We got a tailwind thanks to the victory in our first game. This increased our motivation, the willingness of all players to fight and this positive team spirit can lead us to another success. Brescia, on the other hand, started with a defeat in Athens. The ambition of the Italians to achieve the first victory at home will guarantee an exciting game.”
Mateo Cuk, player, Spandau:
“It’s going to be hard, but we’re not going to lose!”
17.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v CNA Barceloneta (ESP)
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
„Two steps forward and one step back – last week it was the step back. With this game against Barceloneta at home we can try to do everything, the pressure is on Barceloneta’s side…“
Predrag Jokic, player, Hannover:
„Barceloneta is a very good team, reached the Final Six in the last three years. They have six national players from Spain, who are playing a very fast water polo. We will have a chance, if we play like in the games against Spandau and Oradea.”
Darko Brguljan, player, Hannover:
„It’s a very difficult game. We want to give 100% of our abilities, we need to give the maximum to win, and will see what happens…“
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“After our first home win, we want to earn another one in our first away game in Hannover. We have never played against them, and we do know the difficulties of winning in Germany. We respect Hannover, they are in the first position in German League, we won’t misjudge them based on their 18-8 loss to Recco in the first round. They have players with a great international experience, but we want to add three more points to our tally.”
18.30 Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) v ZF Eger (HUN)
Nebojsa Antonovic, assistant coach, Partizan:
“Eger is a team of quality, a typical representative of the Hungarian school. For us, the match is the big test for the Final Four tournament in the Serbian Cup, next week. Our main goal of the first part of the season is to defend the trophy in national Cup. But it does not mean that the game against Eger is not important for us. I expect an interesting and close contest. One of the biggest assets Eger has is Branislav Mitrovic, goalkeeper of the Serbian national team, who won Olympic gold in Rio. We know him well, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It is hard to outwit him, but I hope we’ll find good solutions in attack.”
Marko Manojlovic, player, Partizan:
“Besides Mitrovic, Eger has two more Serbs: former captain of Partizan Milos Cuk, a member of Serbian national team, and Boris Vapenski, who won Champions League with Red Star. And there is Uros Cuckovic, who, like Mitrovic and Cuk, also played in Partizan. And the team has a lot of excellent Hungarian players, too. Partizan is a young team, we don’t have a lot of experience, but in every game we go with a big motivation. Our main task is to produce the best possible level in this match.”
Mihajlo Repanovic, player, Partizan:
“Eger is a club to be respected, while on the other side Partizan is the youngest team in the Champions League this season. But not a single game we start with holding up the ‘white flag’.”
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, ZF-Eger:
“I have great respect towards the water polo foundations in Belgrade. They are working great all the time. Now Partizan has a young and energetic team. Some teams don’t take them seriously, but they demonstrated it on several occasions that they can play on high level. I think they are even capable of beating any of us, Dubrovnik, Barceloneta, Recco or Eger. We need to win, if we want to reach our goal.”
Adam Decker, player, ZF-Eger:
“Last year as an OSC player we were beaten by the Partizan in Belgrade, because we thought we would win surely. Last week something similar happened to our team in Miskolc in the Hungarian Cup. We need to play with the maximum concentration. We need to prove in the pool, that we are the better team. I hope it won’t be a problem.”
Uros Cuckovic, player, ZF-Eger:
“We have to be careful with this young team. Partizan is every time Partizan! Good news for us that Balazs Harai will play again. Now me and Norbert Hosnyanszky have a little injury, Balazs Erdelyi was sick on this week, but for Saturday we are going to be ready because the Champions League heals all illnesses.”
19.00 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Pro Recco (ITA)
Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Pro Recco:
“It will be a hard test, Jug is a strong team. We must take a step forward in our game, compared to the match against Hannover. This is the priority, then if we return to Italy with a positive result it would be even better.”
Edoardo Di Somma, player, Pro Recco:
“Jug is a fantastic team, it will be a difficult match, but we have the skills to put them in difficulty.”
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Quotes by LEN (www.len.eu).