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Champions League, Preliminaries, Day 9 – preview

Showdown for Olympiacos and Barceloneta

A series of great clashes might shake up the rankings in both groups in the coming weekend. The absolute highlight is the match of Olympiacos and Barceloneta but OSC’s visit to Recco also promises some excitements as the Hungarians caused a big upset in the last round by beating title-holder Ferencvaros.

Group B (Friday) 19.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 20.30 HAVK Mladost Zagreb (CRO) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) 20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v A-Híd OSC Budapest (HUN) 20.30 CN Terrassa (ESP) v CN Marseille (FRA)

Standings: 1. Recco 20, 2. FTC 17, 3. OSC 16, 4. Mladost 16, 5. Terrassa 12, 6. Marseille 9, 7. Hannover 3, 8. Tbilisi 0

Group A (Saturday) 19.00 Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 19.00 Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v Jadran Split (CRO) 19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Sintez Kazan (RUS) 20.00 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)

Standings: 1. Barceloneta 19, 2. Olympiacos 19, 2. Jug 18, 4. Szolnok 12, 5. Jadran Carine 10, 5. Spandau 8, 7. Jadran Split 4, 8. Sintez 3

In Group B, Recco faces the ‘Big Hungarian Test’ in the next two rounds, they meet OSC in Verona this Friday then visit Ferencvaros on Day 10 – winning both encounters would secure the Italians’ first place in the group.

However, neither matches promise an easy ride for Recco: OSC is just fresh from beating title-holder Ferencvaros in the previous round and another upset would even give them a chance to finish atop. At the same time, Ferencvaros needs to rebound to stay on course for the first place after their very first defeat in the entire season. It’s going to be anything but easy in Zagreb where Mladost already tricked Recco (for a draw), and a win might even rocket the Croats to the second place.

Terrassa and Marseille face off in a critical match: the Spaniards – already achieving much more than expected – might get as close as a single point to the fourth place. The French had a tremendous run earlier but after having surprisingly fallen to Terrassa in their home, the Euro Cup winners were pushed onto a losing streak and this match offers them a very last chance to catch up with the front-runners, a fourth defeat would almost surely put them out of contest.

Hannover and Tbilisi don’t have too many hopes to make the cut, this game might offer one of the last chances for the Georgians to earn at least a point in their first season in the league but Hannover already bettered them in their home.

The match of the week is to be played in Piraeus where Olympiacos meets Barceloneta on Saturday. The Greeks suffered their first defeat in the season in Dubrovnik 15 days ago and slipped back to the second place as Barceloneta grabbed the occasion. As Olympiacos’ head coach Theodoros Vlachos put it, three points in this game are like gold for both sides – the winner would be the favourite to finish atop in Group A. Olympiacos is yet to lose a match at home, we shall see the outcome of this clash of Greece and Spain (the sides are almost equal with the respective national teams).

While Piraeus will host the battle of the 2018 and 2014 champions, the 2017 and 2016 winners are to produce a nail-biter in Szolnok. Jug is very much in the race for the first place, if the other big match ends in a draw like the first game did in Barceloneta, then a win would put Jug in the driving seat. Szolnok’s quest for another F8 appearance suffered a big blow in the last round, their shocking defeat against Spandau showed that the team’s journey might become pretty shaky.

The Hungarians can even be dropped out of the top four for the first time in this season if Jadran Carine remains on its comeback trail. After a series of narrow losses, the Montenegrins started winning matches and three more points against the ‘other’ Jadran in the group (Split) would set them to pass Szolnok. Since Jadran Carine holds a 3-0 lead over the Croats in this season so far, this scenario is absolutely real.

And don’t forget about Spandau which caused one of the biggest upsets in this season by beating Szolnok. The Germans can also eye three more points against bottom-ranked Sintez – and even more on the long run.

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