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Exciting replays of last season’s semis
The replays of last season’s Final Six semifinals are the absolute highlights of Day 2 in the Champions League. These two contests will have a huge impact on the hunt for the top spots in the respective groups.
18.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
A brilliant match it was last May on the Margaret Island. A huge, tactical fight in the semifinal, either team could have won, Szolnok came from behind and had a man-up in the last minute to take the lead for the first time and proceed to the final but they missed it while the Greeks scored a truly incredible goal after a time-out with only two seconds remaining, a 15m shot was deflected and that won the match for the Greeks.
Now the two sides clash again, the teams have been reshaped a bit, both have some new quality players to build on, Andrija Prlainovic made a faster-than-expected recovery from his illness and was on board in the opening round so the best line-ups are to be sent for the battlefield on Saturday and this promises a really outstanding match. Again, either side can win.
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)
OSC has some serious plans for this season and that suffered a blow in the first round when they lost at home to Szolnok, conceding a goal in the very last second. In order to stay in the hunt for the remaining two qualifying berths (Szolnok has a secured one as the host of the F6), winning in Nice is a must for the Hungarians. Though Nice is not considered a real favourite, they have been known to cause a couple of upsets in their home pool so the visitors have to be on the top of their game to avoid unpleasant surprises.
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 have 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)
Brescia had a fine match in Piraeus, they could keep up with last season’s runner-up for almost three and a half periods but ran out of power and ideas in the closing quarter. Spandau didn’t have the same quality as Olympiacos but they managed to win an away game for the first time in years (in Nice) and that is a huge boost for the Germans. Still, at home Brescia is the clear favourite and if they wish to compete for the F6 spots, they can’t afford losing points at home.
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)
Not even the great Montenegrin players could save Hannover from a bad beating in Recco. Now they can play at home but the task is just a bit less demanding: clashing with Barceloneta is a tremendous challenge for any team in the main round. The Spaniards took a flying start, played a fine match at home against Partizan and with their brilliant team effort they can continue their streak even in Germany.
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 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)
Partizan has a huge reputation in European water polo, and perhaps this respect makes the Serbs’ task even harder. After they caused minor upsets last year all teams arrive to Belgrade with a clear mind: even though this Partizan consists of young and inexperienced players, they cannot be underestimated as with the backing of their enthusiastic supporters they can catch the wave and do some miracle. Based on the quality and experience, Eger is an outstanding favourite, especially with a couple of former Partizan players in the mix who knows well the style and approach of the host side.
Nebojsa Antonovic, assistant coach, Partizan:
“Eger is a team of quality, 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, 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 of 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 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)
The other big match of Day 2, the rematch of the other semifinal played in May in the Final Six. Though Recco was regarded the favourite, it was Jug who controlled the match for most of the time and seemed the winner when a controversial call almost turned the cards – but at the end the Croats prevailed in the penalty shootout and went on winning the trophy. In fact, this is a clash between the 2016 winner and the 2015 winner of the Champions League, enough to consider the encounter a ‘must-watch match’ (indeed anyone can follow the live streaming on the LEN website). With some great Serbian and Montenegrin (and Croatian) players arriving with Recco to Dubrovnik, the match will offer a special flavour beside the fantastic game we all expect. Both teams began its respective quest with a win and this contest will have a huge impact on the outcome of the rush for the top spot in this group.
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 in 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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