More excitements are in sight as rematches commence
As usual, the rematches of Day 7 take place in this round offering plenty more excitements across Europe, and the uncertainty due to the pandemic might affect the matches once more, though hopefully this time all eight will be staged. The race for the F8 is as fierce as ever in Group A with three more extremely tight encounters in sight, while Group B title-holder Recco looks for a revenge after its stunning loss to Jug two weeks ago.
While the new Omicron variant continues to keep especially team sport events under pressure, the second half of the Champions League main round is to go ahead this week. Two weeks ago, six games were contested and among them a couple of battles saw some heroic efforts from sides heavily hit by Covid-19 so uncertainty cannot be ruled out this time either.
In Group A, more excitements are to come when the rematches of Day 7 take place on Wednesday (as usual, in the second half there is a switch and Group A matches are due on the second playing day while Group B opens the respective rounds). Just as last time, Ferencvaros is the team where three more points are more or less ‘booked’ as last season’s runners-up face pointless Dinamo Tbilisi so the unbeaten Hungarians shall stay close (if not get closer) to the leaders.
At the same time, top ranked Olympiacos and second placed Brescia are to pass tough tests. Though the Greeks, the other unbeaten side in the field, claimed a fine win over Radnicki at home, in Kragujevac the Serbs may go for an upset. The hosts earned more fine wins in the Adriatic League last week, including another stunner against favourite Novi Beograd which shows they are really capable of bigger things – while Olympiacos struck in Athens due to a snow storm at the airport so it’s yet to be seen if they are able to travel to Belgrade on time.
Brescia came up with an a truly amazing performance against Jadran while most of its key players watched the game from home – but that’s history and now they need to repeat the feat in Split. It’s not going to be easy despite many returning aces to the Italians’ line-up since this is perhaps the very last chance for the Croats to stay on course for the Final Eight.
An even bigger challenge awaits Barceloneta which dropped two more valuable points against Novi Beograd two weeks ago. Just like against Ferencvaros, the Spaniards conceded a goal in the dying seconds against the Serbs which tied the game so they now trail by two points in the ranks and if they don’t win in Belgrade, they will see an even bigger gap to bridge in the remaining rounds (the Serbs have a guaranteed spot in the F8 as hosts). At the same time, the host side is in a bit of turmoil now as their head coach Vladimir Vujasinovic suddenly resigned on Monday citing poor results achieved so far in this season – so on Wednesday an interim coach will take on his duty.
In Group B, things unexpectedly heated up as Recco lost its first game in the season in Dubrovnik (all competitions considered) and now the title-holders are tied first with Marseille. The schedule offers a quick revenge opportunity for the Italians at home – in Milano, more precisely, as it’s tour-time again – though this match is in limbo as a couple of Croatian players were tested positive in Belgrade, at the Adriatic League tournament which endangers their trip to Italy.
Marseille got three points without play last time, now they have to travel to Belgrade which is always tricky, though Crvena Zvezda sits in the last place of the group and does not seem to be a real threat on the French’ winning run. However, the new coach Mirko Vicevic might stir up the Serbs while the French is yet to play this year as they had only cancelled matches at home too.
The clash of Spandau and OSC has the most at stake perhaps in the entire round. Winning in Dubrovnik put the Hungarians back on track but soaring Covid-infections derailed them again on Day 7. Losing three points to Spandau without playing set up a huge battle in Berlin for Tuesday where the eventual winner shall take the edge in the hunt for the top four positions.
The other German side Hannover survived the Bucharest test despite missing several of its key players and that hard-fought win kept their hopes to go to Belgrade alive. Now three more points at home is very much in sight and that would attach them to the top four – if things happen favourably in Berlin, Hannover can even overtake OSC, though the road leading to the F8 is still very long.
Fixtures, Day 8
Group A (Wednesday)
19.00 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.45 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
20.30 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
Standings: 1. Brescia 17, 2. Olympiacos 16, 3. Ferencvaros 13, 4. Barceloneta 11, 5. Novi Beograd 11, 6. Jadran 6, 7. Radnicki 4, 8. Dinamo 0
Group B (Tuesday)
18.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU)
19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v OSC Budapest (HUN)
20.00 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v CN Marseille (FRA)
21.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
Standings: 1. Recco 18, 2. Marseille 18, 3. Jug 15, 4. OSC 10, 5. Hannover 8, 6. Spandau 7, 7. Steaua 3, 8. Zvezda 3