Partizan v Jug: as special as always
Budapest and Belgrade might see the most heated battles in the coming round. OSC (HUN) will clash Brescia (ITA) in a crucial match which will have a big affect on the rush for the third qualifying spot in Group A. In the other group the encounter featuring Partizan (SRB) and Jug Dubrovnik (CRO) is the highlight of the day.
18.00 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v Olympic Nice (FRA)
Szolnok kicks off 2017 with a must-win match in the Champions League. The Hungarians, undefeated so far, should snatch a win in order to reserve the chance to finish atop in the group – which is their clear target, despite enjoying a secured berth as the host of the Final Six. On the other hand, Olympic is yet to earn a point in the League and they need a miracle or a disastrous performance from the home side to achieve that in Szolnok.
Sándor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“We cannot underestimate our opponent in this following game. On the one hand French water polo is developing and coming up, on the other hand it’s the Champions League where there is no weak team. We have to do our best in every match. If we want to come first in our group we cannot make any mistake on Wednesday evening.”
Zivko Gocic, captain, Szolnok:
“It cannot deceive us that Nice is performing weaker in the group. In the last few years French water polo is developing continuously, they even got to the Olympic Games. The French national team is based on the team of Nice and they also have great foreign players. We must concentrate 100 % in order to win this encounter.”
19.30 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Olympiacos is to march on though the Greeks have some bad memories from the past. Last season they had to settle for a tie even though they led by four goals in Berlin but Spandau staged a brilliant comeback. The visitors had 10 wins in as many games in the domestic league, scoring 15.6 goals per game as an average but against Spandau any win will do for them.
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos:
“This is the first game in the Champions League after the holidays and I think that may cause many surprises, especially for us that we play away, against a team that is strong and ambitious! So in order not to be a surprise we have to stay focus and do what we have done all these days in practice. I think we have been well prepared for this game and we want to achieve our first away win this year. In every game we play for the win, so we will do the same against Spandau.”
Josip Pavic, goalkeeper, Olympiacos:
“A game in the Champions League is always hard, especially when you play away, so I believe that this will be a hard game too, against a team with good players and also a good coach. We believe in our team and we want to continue the good results in order to finish in the first place of the group. We have good trainings in the recent days and we feel ready as a team for this game. We always want to win, so we want to win this, too. After last year’s game we know this is far from an easy game in Berlin but we feel ready and confident.”
19.30 A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)
The match of the day as this is a crucial clash between the sides aiming at the third place behind last year’s silver and bronze medallist teams. After losing their opening game against Szolnok in a painful way (the decisive goal came in the last second) OSC bounced back with two away wins and now takes on Brescia in their second home match. In the second round of the qualification they met already, the match was played in Brescia and decided the top spot. OSC controlled that game for most of the time but the Italians managed to catch them up at the end forced the encounter into a tie.
Balázs Vincze, head coach, OSC:
“Our players had 10-12 days off during the holidays, which was very much needed, but everyone came back motivated and in good shape and we already had played a match in the Hungarian Championship (beat KSI 17-4). We are aware that our matches against AN Brescia is very crucial to reach the Final Six, thus our upcoming match in Budapest has a special importance and we are treating it as such. We have no injuries and we expect a close and hard match.”
Gergo Zalanki, player, OSC:
“At home, our expectation is always to win, and this is especially true for our match against Brescia. The key for us is the defense, where we need to hold Brescia on a low score. When we played against each other in Brescia back in October, we got off to a good start, but then Brescia caught up with us in the end and we finished with a 11-11 tie. This Wednesday, we need to make sure not to allow so many goals and than we’ll have a fine result.”
Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:
“This game is extremely important as it’s a key in achieving our goal of reaching the finals because it is against our direct rival, OSC. Every detail will be fundamental in all areas of play; the game on Wednesday is a determining step on our path and we must do everything possible to bring home a good result. In the past we granted too many favours to our opponents and now I want to see special signs of improvement from my team. I want to see a stronger continuity in our play and greater resistance and concentration.”
- Olympiacos 7, 2. Szolnok 7, 3. OSC 6, 4. Brescia 3, 5. Spandau 3, 6. Nice 0
18.30 Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
In the good old days it was one of the most heated battles of the Yugoslavian championship – now Jug is the outstanding favourite, still, this encounter has a special flavour, as all matches have featuring a Serbian and a Croatian club. The youngsters of Partizan forced F6 participant Eger to a nailbiting match and lost by a single goal, then left two points in Hannover after leading by four goals lately there but the Germans could equalise at the end. Playing at home Partizan is always pretty dangerous, though Jug ought to prevail as it did in the past seasons, too.
Zoran Milenkovic, head coach, Partizan:
“The game against the European champions, who won everything they could last season, is the great opportunity for our young team to see how much progress we have made since the first duel against Jug this season, in the Regional League, two months ago. During the preparation for the upcoming match we had problems with injuries. But I believe that despite the problems with the injuries, our players will provide their best.”
Djordje Lazic, player, Partizan:
“Jug is one of the favorites to win the Champions League. We respect our rivals, but we will not let them earn the points easily in Belgrade.”
Radomir Drasovic, player, Partizan:
“We didn’t start this year as we wanted. Last Saturday we lost the game against Mladost in Zagreb in the Regional league. I expect a much better performance from our team in the game against Jug. We want to get back the good shape in which we played the first part of the season.”
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:
“We respect any opponent, especially Partizan, in their pool. We need three points if we want to book our place in the Final Six. Pro Recco is the favourite in our group so we are targeting the second place. Sure we will try to finish first but it is a very hard mission.”
Luka Loncar, player, Jug:
“Partizan is a very young team and it’s not going to be an easy game for us. Still, we are the favourites and everything but our victory would be big surprise.”
20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
Recco, the only side with three wins in the entire field, is about to add another victory en route to finish atop in the group. Though Barceloneta is capable of causing upsets, still, the Spaniards lost key players in recent years so it’s not the same team which clinched the title in 2015. In the meantime, Recco, winner in the next year, is as strong as ever, they scored impressive wins in Dubrovnik and in Eger, a telling sign that they are back to grab the trophy once more.
Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Pro Recco:
“Only few days we had to prepare for the match with the whole squad after the Christmas holidays and World League games. Barceloneta is a good team, they’ve done very well in recent years, so we have to give one hundred percent if we want to win.”
Gonzalo Echenique, player, Pro Recco:
“Barceloneta is a strong team with very fast players and that’s why we have to be intelligent to contrast their counterattack. It will be a difficult match, but we’re ready to play.”
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“Everyone knows that Recco – by players and budget – is the clear favorite to win the Champions League. Recco is one of the best teams of all time in water polo history and right now it is the only team that has won all three games so far. I think it is the most difficult game for us, we have young players and they have a more experienced team and that is very important in this competition. They are the favourites in this game, so we have to play with great intensity and trying not to make any mistakes.”
Daniel Lopez Pinedo, goalkeeper, Barceloneta:
“It is always a pleasure to play against the best players of the world, so we we are ready to enjoy the game against Recco. We have nothing to lose so we want to play our best water polo and give the fans a great spectacle. We must play our 200% to stay in the game, especially in defense. For us is a perfect preparation for one of our big goals of the season, the National Cup.”
20.30 ZF Eger (HUN) v Waspo 98 Hannover (HUN)
Hannover produced a great comeback in the previous round to save a point against Partizan and that might boost the visitors’ chances. Eger had a couple of modest performances, they couldn’t really threaten the wins of Recco and Jug, losing by four goals to both. They struggled in Belgrade since they are still to field their strongest line-up after constantly hit by injuries. With a handful of fine Montenegrins in the mix, Hannover might even cause some surprise.
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:
“Everybody hopes for a confident victory from our team, but it will be a really hard game, because Hannover showed his strength in the last rounds.”
Adam Decker, player, Eger:
“This is the most important match in January. The victory against Hannover is mandatory! We know that they are a good team, so it will not easy to collect the three points. The mandatory wins are always the most difficult one. We are ready, we will win!”
Gergo Kovacs, player, Eger:
“The home pool advantage and our enthusiastic fans are on our side. I think we are better team than Hannover, but this game is going to be very difficult. I don’t like these games, which the win is expected. Hannover has a good team with Montenegrin players, who are the members of the national team. We have injured players, so it will not be easy.”
Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:
“We drive to Eger without pressure. We are there to achieve a positive surprise.”
Alexander Radovic, player, Hannover:
“Last seasons they were in the top 5-6 European teams, it will be very hard to play at their pool. They have excellent Hungarian and Serbian players, who are important members of the respective national teams. Since this is the first time in the Champions League for us, we will try to compete with each team, give our best and try to win. Each point is important for us.”
Predrag Jokic, player, Hannover:
“We have to play a good defense, and close out Eger’s counterattacks. Once we realise the chances in offense, we can earn a point or more.”
- Recco 9, 2. Barceloneta 5, 3. Jug 4, 4. Eger 3, 5. Hannover 2, 6. Partizan 1
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