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2019 Champions League LEN Events News Water Polo

Champions League, Main Round, Day 1 – Preview

It’s action time! 

Another season of tremendous excitements is set to begin on Wednesday when the Champions League main round kicks off with eight encounters. The re-match of last May’s quarter-final between Barceloneta (ESP) and Eger (HUN) and the clash of newcomer, last season’s Euro Cup finalist BPM Busto (ITA) and title-holder Olympiacos (GRE) are definitely the games to watch on Wednesday.

In Group A both Italian teams Recco and Brescia are about to launch their respective campaigns with a win as they are the favourites in Belgrade (SRB) and Bucharest (ROU). The other two encounters seem to offer much more thrills: the clash of Barceloneta (ESP) and Eger (HUN) is a re-match of the Final Eight quarter-final from last May. That time the Spaniards beat Eger with ease (9-4) and at home they might repeat this as the visiting side has been reshaped a bit and opted to play with a younger line-up after several key players left Eger.

The other Hungarian team, Ferencvaros will play with Dynamo (RUS) upon their return to the big stage after 17 years. The Budapest based side triumphed in the last two editions of the Euro Cup and by signing up more aces in the summer market they’ve become a pretty strong F8 contender this season. Though the Russians also had some great games in the previous edition and almost made the finals in their first season.

Group B will produce some action-packed matches with the winners of the last three editions (Olympiacos, Jug, Szolnok) coming together. Add two more Croatian and German sides (one, Hannover is the host of the F8 next May so enjoys an automatic berth, leaving three more for the others), plus Euro Cup runner-up BPM Busto (ITA) – and the scene is set for outstanding excitements.

On Day 1 perhaps the title-holder’s visit to Verona stands out. BPM Sport Management is an absolute newcomer in the Champions League and upon their premiere they have to face the mighty team of Olympiacos – a mouth-watering pairing.

The two new entrants from Croatia will also have some hard task as Jadran Split opens its quest in Szolnok (HUN) while Mladost plays against Hannover. Another Croat v German duel is due in Berlin where Spandau tries to upset Jug.

Just as in the past season, LEN offers free live streaming from each game and as a novelty every goal will be available for replay in the live-scoring application which can be downloaded to smartphones and tablets from the dedicated website.

 

Champions League, Main Round, Day 1 – Schedule 

Group A

18.30 FTC-Telekom (HUN) v Dynamo Moscow (RUS)

19.15 Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v ZF Eger (HUN)

20.30 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v AN Brescia (ITA)

20.30 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Pro Recco (ITA)

Group B

19.00 Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Jadran Split (CRO)

19.30 Spandau 04 (GER) v Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)

20.30 BPM Sport Management Busto (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)

20.30 HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)Group A

18.30 FTC-Telekom (HUN) v Dynamo Moscow (RUS)

Last season:

FTC (Ferencvaros): Winner of Euro Cup

Dynamo: 5th in Group A – 6W, 4D, 4L, 141-133

Best results in CHL history

FTC: semi-finalist in 1989

Dynamo: runner-up (3x) in 1964, 1969, 1987

Zsolt Varga, head coach FTC-Telekom:

„Now this is the real start of Champions League. This upcoming game against Moscow is very important for us. Dynamo is known as a really massive team, playing hard, a physical and good water polo. We want to win the first match.”

Aaron Younger, player, FTC-Telekom:

„It is going to be a tough game on Wednesday against a strong Russian team who are competing with an almost identical team to last season. We will be the favourites, but it’ll be a close game with these points being very crucial for later in the season.”

Marat Zakirov, head coach, Dynamo:

“First of all, we congratulate all teams with the start of Champions League new season. For our first game we will come to Budapest to play against an absolute favourite of this competition FTC Telekom but we are to get pleasure from this match.”

Sergey Lisunov, captain, Dynamo:

“During the last two months we were waiting for our remaining opponents in our Champions League group. And now here it is, we are going to play against very strong team, strong rival. It will be a great examination of our team’s strength. It is very important to make a good start because we have a really strong group and we have the strength, energy and opportunities to play good games.”

19.15 Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v ZF Eger (HUN)

Last season:

Barceloneta: Bronze medallist (F8) – Prelims: 3rd in Group A – 8W, 3D, 3 L, 137-102

ZF Eger: 6th (F8) – Prelims: 2nd in Group B – 10W, 1D, 3L, 134-87

Best results in CHL history:

Barceloneta: winner in 2014

Eger: 4th in 2017

Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:

“We begin this Champions League after the arrival of Brescia and Ferencvaros. Clinching one of the first four positions will be a major challenge, especially because of the high standard of the group in this phase of the competition. When the tournament kicks off with Eger, all our efforts will be focused on gaining three points. A start like this would give us the much-needed motivation for the following games, and we can also count on the support of our fans, which is always very important. Several changes have been carried out to the Eger side, and although we beat them 9-4 in the quarterfinals last May, each new game brings up new challenges. We must be especially focused, because we know they are going to put up a tough fight.”

Alberto Munarriz, player, Barceloneta:

“The level of all the teams is very high, so we’re facing a very competitive group stage. This Wednesday’s game against ZF Eger seems to be a close-run fixture, with both sides fired-up for the opening of the tournament, and our team is under additional pressure to gain the maximum points for this, the first home game. Although Eger has undergone several changes this season – which presents some uncertainties as to how they will perform – the most important players of last year are still in the team, so we know they’ll be giving some first-class performances. But if we focus, and keep the pressure and the rhythm up, we have everything to play for.”

Dani Lopez, captain, Barceloneta:

“Despite the changes to their side, we’re familiar with our first opponents, ZF Eger. They have a lot of experience on their side, and have retained their coach and their best players, including Strahinja Rasovic and other excellent members of the Hungarian national team whom we know well. Our strategy, as always, is to keep the pace up, and try to lead the game from beginning.”

Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:

“Barceloneta is a really strong team, especially at home. I am so happy that our first match will be against the Spanish team, because at the beginning of the season it’s maybe easier.”

Marco Avramovic, player, Eger:

“Barceloneta at home is always very good. It will be a hard match for us because in the Spanish club there are many national team players and they are really good swimmers. This will be our first difficult match this season, but we will fight for the points.”

Barnabas Biros, player, Eger:

“We look forward to play a good game and I hope that we will win. We have to be strong in the pool to reach what we want.”

20.30 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v AN Brescia (ITA)

Last season:

Steaua: 6th in Group B – 4W, 0D, 10L, 109-152

Brescia: 7th (F8) – Prelims: 4th in Group A – 8W, 2D, 4L, 114-106

Best results in CHL history:

Steaua: Quarter-finalists in 1992, 1995

Brescia: 5th in 2014

Iosep Andrei, head coach, Steaua:

“We will start with a little handicap, taking into account that we will play the first official game of the season on Wednesday. On the contrary, Brescia has already played five games in Champions League and also started the Italian League. Having eight new players in the team and some unexpected injuries in the last period, our mission became even more difficult than it would normally be when you meet a solid team like Brescia. I am convinced that my players are willing to make a great game especially those, the majority, who will play their first main round match in the Champions League.”

Mihnea Gheorghe, player, Steaua:

“It’s the first game of the season and we are very excited. We have some new players, we are a different team than the past season, a much younger one. The first game is always the most difficult, Brescia is a very strong team, with a lot of great and experienced players but we are extremely motivated and well-prepared. We want to show that we deserve to be in this competition and we will try to win every game.”

Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:

“As every debut in the most important tournament, this game is fundamental and we absolutely want to start the right way. It will be a tough challenge, we don’t know much about Steaua but we have to think of ourselves and do our best.”

Christian Presciutti, captain, Brescia:

“At last here is the preliminary round. We’re ready to give hundred per cent, for us every game will be a final”.

20.30 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Pro Recco (ITA)

Last season:

Zvezda: eliminated in the 3rd round of qualifications (v Sabadell, ESP)

Recco: Runner-up (F8) – Prelims: 1st in Group B – 13W, 0D, 1L, 186-80

Best results in CHL history:

Zvezda: winner in 2013

Recco: winner (8x) in 1965, 1984, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015

Ratko Rudic, head coach, Pro Recco:

“Tomorrow we’ll face an organised team, ready for the battle and they know what they have to do in the water. Compared to Saturday’s match against Bogliasco, we’ll have to increase the quality of our game, especially in offence.”

 

Group B 

19.00 Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Jadran Split (CRO)

Last season:

Szolnok: 5th (F8) – Prelims: 3rd in Group B – 10W, 0D, 4L, 169-99

Jadran: newcomer

Best results in CHL history:

Szolnok: winner in 2017

Jadran: winner in 1992, 1993

Zivko Gocic, head coach, Szolnok:

“Split has come from the qualifying rounds, which does not mean they are a weak team. They have started building their team, and the young and the experienced players make a good mix. Their defence is particularly strong and their offence has improved a lot recently. The most important of all is that they are a strong and tough team. As for our team, we are not ready yet, we need time to reach our good shape. Without a doubt we want to kick-off with a win in our home.”

Gabor Kis, captain, Szolnok:

“It is well known that our team has renewed. As of now, our most important task is to get aligned. We are counting on a difficult game, as for one reason, because our opponent is a Croatian team and as for another there are no easy games at this level. We want to win our opening match.”

Ivan Asic, head coach, Jadran:

“It is a great privilege to play in the LEN Champions League. Jadran Split hasn’t played in this level for 24 years and we are all thrilled to be one of the 16 teams in this year’s competition. Our first opponent is Szolnok, a strong team with a lot of good individuals like Andrija Prlainovic, Gabor Kis… It is a big challenge for my team, but we will try to get most out of that game. I spoke with my players, they can play without the pressure… We had problems ahead of this season since our city pool Poljud is undergoing renovation, and it wasn’t ready for use on time, so we have trained in Kastela, Makarska… We even played play-off round against Jadran Carine in Zadar. But, we overcame all the obstacles and now Jadran is ready to play.”

Andelo Setka, captain, Jadran:

“I have a lot’s of experience playing on top level, but I’ve never played in this top European stage for my club Jadran Split. There are many strong clubs in this competition, Szolnok is one of them. Our job is to promote some of our younger players and to prove that we belong to the Champions League.”

20.30 HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)

Last season:

Mladost: eliminated in 2nd round of qualifications

Hannover: 6th in Group A – 4W, 0D, 10L, 133-150

Best results in CHL history:

Mladost: winner (7x) in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1990, 1991, 1996

Hannover: 11th in 2018

Zoran Bajic, head coach, Mladost:

“On Wednesday we have a very hard and difficult game. Our opponent is a group of very good individuals that makes a good team. They have good players from all European countries. Brguljan, Giorgetti, Jokic, Real and an amazing goalkeeper are just part of this amazing team that doesn’t have weak spots. I hope that we will be long in the game like in chess play and turn it in our favour till the end.”

Ivan Marcelic, captain, Mladost:

“After six years Mladost is again playing in group stage of the LEN Champions League. We are very happy that we’ve got this opportunity and we’re hoping that we can make the most of it, try to qualify for the Final 8 tournament. We’ve got two former and the current title-holder in our group, along with final tournament host Hannover and other very good teams so it won’t be easy at all. We are going to take it one game at a time, try to best showcase our strengths and limit our weaknesses, prepare the best we can and play our best.”

Franko Lazic, player, Mladost:

”I am very happy that we are back in the Champions League after a long time. It will be the first game in Europe after a regional league match with VK Crvena Zvezda. We hope at the game with Hannover we will have full house in the pool and we will make a good result in the end.”

Carsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:

“Every season is one step forward, one level higher. We have nearly the same team like in the last season, completed with Giorgetti and some young players. We will try our best.“

Aleksandar Radovic, player, Hannover:

“Mladost Zagreb is a club with a great history and playing at their home is always hard but we are prepared. It looks much better than in the same period of the last season. My expectation is that we will have more wins this season in the Champions League. We did a great preparation in Dubrovnik again. We know what we can expect from Mladost as they have great players like Cuk, Radu, Petkovic.“

Moritz Schenkel, player, Hannover:

„Mladost Zagreb is a strong team. Great history, good centre-forwards and several strong shooters. I am looking forward to a difficult game but we would like to show our potential straight from the beginning in this season.“

20.30 BPM Sport Management Busto (ITA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)

Last season:

BPM: Runner-up in Euro Cup

Olympiacos: Winner – Prelims: 1st in Group A – 12W, 1D, 1L, 153-102

Best results in CHL history

BPM: –

Olympiacos: winner in 2002, 2018

Marco Baldineti, head coach, BPM:

“It will be a great match against one of the strongest teams in the world. They have been playing together for many years, last season they had a great result and this year they have added some more good players. I think that they will be even stronger than last year. For us this will be ‘one of those nights’ that will teach us a lot.”

Stefano Luongo, captain, BPM:

“It will be very difficult to play against the European Champions, but at the same time it will be a great experience for us. This game will be a special event for us and for all Sport Management Group, we don’t want to create any expectations but when we go into the water, we will play to win.”

Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:

“We are facing a new season… a new challenge for my players. We want to stay on the top and our effort starts in Italy, against a team that came from qualifiers with two great victories. We have to fight in their home and stay focused and effective. The first game of a competition always hides many difficulties, especially when you play away.” 

Giannis Fountoulis, captain, Olympiacos:

“We start the competition with an away game, which is always dangerous. We are facing a young team that has a better game-pace after having more games than we had, through fighting in the qualifying phase. However, we are the favourites and with proper management of the game we will have a positive result. We are prepared and we know that all teams will give their best to beat the European Champion club. This makes our mission more interesting because it’s nice to feel that the other teams have given everything and you are still a winner. It is a treat that will make us good as a team.”

20.30 Spandau 04 (GER) v Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)

Last season:

Spandau: 8th (F8) – Prelims: 4th in Group B – 8W, 1D, 5L, 133-125

Jug: 4th (F8) – Prelims: 2nd in Group A – 9W, 1D, 4L, 147-113

Best results in CHL history:

Spandau: winner (4x) in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1989

Jug: winner (4x) in 1981, 2001, 2006, 2016

Petar Kovecevic, head coach, Spandau

“While playing with Jug we will face one the strongest teams in Europe. For us it is the first game this season and therefore we will see where we stand. I hope we will be a strong opponent for Jug. Most of the players had a good performance during the World Cup. I hope that we are able to transfer some of that to the upcoming tasks.”

Marko Stamm, captain, Spandau:

“Welcome to the Champions League – we do have an incredible strong group this season, apart from that we do have also Hannover in the group, organising the final eight and therefore already being qualified. After last season’s success, reaching the final eight, our aims for the actual season are to advance to the final tournament again.”

Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:

“Both Jug and Spandau are teams having played in the Final Eight few months ago so we know it’s going to be hard game, especially when you play in Berlin. We still didn’t get in right form because of our late start of preparations, but I believe that we will come back to Dubrovnik with three points from Berlin and that will mean a lot in the competition.”

Maro Jokovic, player, Jug:

“This is the first game in the LEN Champions League in front of us. That won’t be easy job because Spandau is a very good team. The proof for this is their qualification to the Final 8 last season. Our team is together for only few weeks but we are going to Berlin being ready to fight for three points.”