Do-or-die matches coming up
As there are less and less rounds remaining, the battle for the Final 8 is getting tougher in both groups. The coming two days offer a series of crucial battles, where losses would probably derail the campaigns of a couple of teams which already fell behind in the previous rounds.
As usual, apart from an easy ride for Novi Beograd which plays with Dinamo in this round, the other three matches are crucial in the intensifying battle for the Final Eight. Brescia faces its toughest test so far, visiting arch-rival Olympiacos which suffered a shocking loss to Radnicki two weeks ago. The Italians enjoy a four-point advantage – even a draw in Piraeus would boost their chances to finish atop (the game will be played on Tuesday).
At the same time, Ferencvaros may eye closing the gap – though last season’s runner-up will have a tough ride in Split. Jadran had some ups and downs (well, mostly downs…) but the team has a huge potential and now with all their players back from Covid, they might be a threat on the Hungarians – who are, by the way, yet to lose a game in this season.
The real ‘do-or-die’ match will be played in Kragujevac where Radnicki meets Barceloneta. Two weeks ago, the Spaniards fell in Belgrade while Radnicki upset Olympiacos – now Barceloneta is back to Serbia and another loss would be a huge blow to their F8 campaign as they already trail by five points to Ferencvaros (Novi Beograd has a guaranteed berth as the host of the event). As a contrast, Radnicki is gearing up and try its best to stage a last surge to catch the train to Belgrade.
In Group B, the big game is due at Budapest, featuring OSC and Jug. In December, the Hungarians took the upper hand in Dubrovnik (in that round both Magyar sides beat its respective Croatian rival), since then both teams were hit hard by Covid, both had to settle for a 0-10 walkover loss, though it was more painful for the Hungarians as their home match with Spandau gone in that way (Jug forfeited its game in Recco). Since the two German rivals face uphill battles in this round, the danger is not imminent for either sides – still, the winner would gain a big advantage.
Hannover travels to Recco as the underdog, the Germans – after claiming back-to-back wins over Steaua, both times by a single goal – can play without any pressure and may have a shot as Recco hasn’t played any game in the past two weeks since the Italian league was suspended.
Fellow German side Spandau needs to bounce back after a bitter last-second loss to OSC two weeks ago – and they clash with Marseille which won all seven games since it had gone down on the opening day against Recco. The Berliners have a six-point gap to bridge in the race for Belgrade – this well can be their very last chance to keep their hopes alive.
In the fourth encounter bottom-ranked Crvena Zvezda and Steaua Bucharest will play a game of prestige as neither of these two have any realistic chance to make the cut with six rounds to go.
As for those remaining game days and the Final Eight, LEN will come forward with a new schedule in due time in the wake of FINA’s announcement on Monday on staging a World Championships from 18 June till 3 July in Budapest.
Fixtures – Champions League, Day 9
Group A (Wednesday)
19.15 (Tuesday) Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.00 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)
19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)
19.45 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
Standings: 1. Brescia 20, 2. Olympiacos 16, 3. Ferencvaros 16, 5. Novi Beograd 14, 4. Barceloneta 11, 7. Radnicki 7, 6. Jadran 6, 8. Dinamo 0
Group B (Tuesday)
19.00 Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) 19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v CN Marseille (FRA)
20.00 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU)
21.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
Standings: 1. Recco 21, 2. Marseille 21, 3. Jug 15, 4. OSC 13, 5. Hannover 11, 6. Spandau 7, 7. Steaua 3, 8. Zvezda 3