Champions League

Sixteen clubs start race toward Genoa

Szolnok, the 2016/17 Champions league winner Photo: mtb-sports.net

The 2017/18 Champions League is going to start tomorrow!

LEN expanded the water polo Champions League this summer (from 12 to 16), so the competition will see 16 clubs split into two groups. The teams will run the race for berths at the Final Eight tournament, that will be held in Genoa in June.

Eleven countries will have their clubs in the 2017/18 Champions League. Hungary is the only one which has three sides in the CHL, as well as the previous two years. Szolnok, the European champion, is one of 12 clubs with wild cards, OSC successfully ended its cruise through the qualifications, while Eger got an “extra wild card”. Olympic Nice (France), withdrew from the competition a few months ago and returned its wild card. LEN allocated the card to Eger because the Hungarian vice-champion was the best-placed club in the 2016/17 Champions League among clubs which didn’t have wild cards.

Italy, Germany and Spain will have two clubs each. Besides Hungary, Italy, Germany and Spain, seven nations will have their representatives (Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Russia, Greece, Romania and The Netherlands).

A group

Participants
Club (country): results in the 2016/17 season

Jug Dubrovnik (Croatia): 2nd in Final Six. Prelims: 3rd in Group B – 5 wins, 2 draws, 3 lost games (115:92 goal difference)
Olympiacos (Greece): 6th in Final Six. Prelims: 2nd in Group A – 7W, 1D, 2L (90:63)
Barceloneta (Spain): 4th in Group A – 4W, 2D, 4L (89:81)
Brescia (Italy): 5th in Final Six. Prelims: 3rd in Group A – 5W, 2D, 3L (91-78)
OSC (Hungary): Prelims: 4th in Group A – 3W, 3D, 4L (79:74)
Partizan (Serbia): Prelims: 5th in Group B – 1W, 1D, 8L (76:124)
Waspo 98 Hannover (Germany): Preliminary: 6th in Group B – 0W, 3D, 7L (98:128)
Dynamo (Russia): newcomer.

The biggest favourites in Group A are 2016 winner and last season’s finalist Jug (Croatia) and Olympiacos (Greece), runner-up in 2016. Both clubs didn’t make a lot of changes in their squads in this summer’s transfer market.

Brescia (Italy), which won 5th place last season, and OSC (Hungary) also have big chances to reach the F8. Barceloneta, 2014 winner, wants to return to the final tournament, after its absence last season, when they missed Final Six for the first time since 2012. The Spaniards will be led by a big star Felipe Perrone, who returned to the club this summer.

Dynamo Moskow, the newcomer in the Champions League is the first Russian club that got the “wild card”. The team from Moskow also has big ambitions. Dynamo hasn’t played in the Champions League for 15 years. It greatly reinforced the team, by bringing the best European water polo player of the year in 2015 Dusko Pijetlovic, Nikola Radjen, several members of the national team of Russia…

Partizan, the seven-times European champion, enters the Champions League with the youngest team in its history. The team from Belgrade isn’t close the European top, its main goal is gaining some experience, but young talents from the Banjica pool always can be a hard rival for every opponent, they proved that many times. Waspo 98 Hannover also doesn’t have big chances to reach the Final Eight, but the Germans made several surprises last season (they played a tie with Jug in Dubrovnik – 15:15), so every team won’t have an easy task against Hannover, this season too.

The derby of the first round in Group A is the encounter between Dynamo and Jug in Moskow.

Group A, 1st round, Wednesday, 25 October 2017

17.30 Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) –OSC Budapest (Hungary)
19.15 Dynamo Moscow (Russia) – Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (Croatia)
19.30 CN Atletic Barceloneta (Spain) – Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece)
19.30 Waspo 98 Hannover (Germany) – AN Brescia (Italy)

*All times are local

Group B

Participants
Club (country): results in the 2016/17 season

Szolnok(Hungary): European champion. Prelims: 1st in Group A: 9 wins, 1 draw, 0 lost games (101:62 goal difference)
Pro Recco (Italy): 3rd in Final Six. Prelims: 1st in Group B – 10W, 0D, 0L (116:63)
Eger (Hungary): 4th in Final Six. Prelims: 2nd in Group B – 6W, 0D, 4L (78:84)
Jadran (Montenegro): did not qualify.
Spandau 04 (Germany): Prelims: 5th in Group A – 2W, 1D, 7L (75:95)
Steaua (Romania): newcomer
Sabadell (Spain): newcomer
AZ Alphen (The Netherlands): newcomer

Szolnok (Hungary), the reigning champion, and Pro Recco (Italy) stand out in Group B.

Pro Recco is, as a technical host, already qualified for the Final Eight, but the Italians want to go at the F8 from the first place in the Group. Szolnok have the same ambitions, for sure.

Pro Recco didn’t bring a lot of additions this summer, but the team from Genoa kept most of its key players, led by Filip Filipovic, who was officially the best player of the world and of the Europe in the world for 2016.

Szolnok wants to repeat the last season when it won everything it could (European title, “double crown” in Hungary, Super cup in Hungary). The Hungarian team, with its stars Andrija Prlainovic, Viktor Nagy, Marton Vamos… is again one of the biggest favourites for the European throne.

Another Hungarian club in the group, Eger will be the toughest rival for Pro Recco and Szolnok. Jadran is, based on its line-up, also very close to the Final Eight. Sabadell is, for sure, in the battle for the F8, too.

Spandau 04 and debutants Steaua, Sabadell and AZC Alphen are clubs that may upset favourites.

Group B, 1st round, Wednesday, 25 October  2017 

18.15 CN Sabadell (Spain) – Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (Hungary)
20.30 Steaua Bucharest (Romania) – ZF Eger (Hungary)
20.30 Jadran Herceg Novi (Montenegro) – Spandau 04 Berlin (Germany)
20.30 Pro Recco (Italy) – AZC Alphen (The Netherlands)
*All times are local

2017/18 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SCHEDULE

25 October 2017: 1st match
8 November 2017: 2nd match
29 November 2017: 3rd match
9 December 2017: 4th match
20 December 2017: 5th match
13 January 2018: 6th match
24 January 2018: 7th match
7 February 2018: 8th match
28 February 2018: 9th match
14 March 2018: 10th match
31 March 2018: 11th match
18 April 2018: 12th match
28 April 2018: 13th match
9 May 2018: 14th match

“FINAL EIGHT”:
Genova 7 – 9 June 2018

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