Champions League, Main Round, Day 10 – Preview

With five rounds remaining, the battle for the qualifying berths and also for the top spots are  intensifying. In Group A, Brescia is on its way to win the group while the others are entangled in  an extremely tight battle for the remaining F8 spots. In Group B, Recco, Marseille and Jug seem  to have reached safe waters, but the fight for the fourth place is just heating up. 

In Group A, another win for Brescia, this time against second-placed Novi Beograd would almost  secure the first place for the Italian team which already enjoys a six-point advantage. At the same time,  the fight behind these two are just getting tougher. The key game is the clash of Ferencvaros and  Barceloneta: the Hungarians lost their first match in the season two weeks ago – it happened in Split and  that somewhat shocking outcome heated up the race. Barceloneta, on the contrary, managed to rebound  from its loss in Belgrade with a magnificent 7-0 opening period in Kragujevac and a win in Budapest  would put them in the driving seat. The two sides played a thrilling draw last December, Ferencvaros  came back from two goals down late in the match while last season they managed to edge out the  Spaniards twice in the ‘bubble-prelims’ in Budapest, so another close contest is very much in the cards. 

Olympiacos has to deal with perhaps the most serious setbacks in recent years: their unexpected back to-back losses (in Kragujevac, then at home to Brescia) put them in danger and now they are facing  another big test, a game in Split. The Croats showed their real quality for the first time two weeks ago  while beating Ferencvaros, last weekend they downed arch-rival Jug in the domestic league – another  win may even restore their status as legitimate contender for the Final Eight.  

Radnicki’s stunning win against Olympiacos had seemed to put them back on track on Day 8, only to be  derailed in eight minutes by Barceloneta in the following round – the Serbs now travel to Tbilisi to  collect three points, but their faith is not entirely in their hands any longer. 

In Group B the challenges are different. The top three ranked sides’ F8 berths seem to be already  secured. Recco and Marseille are now racing for the first place, they will meet on Day 14 – it’s  interesting to see if either of the two drop points till that last showdown.  

Recco plays at home with OSC, the Magyars need points badly but perhaps this is not the game where  they can count on any – while Marseille, enjoying an 8-game winning streak, visits Hannover where the  Germans are also eying the fourth place and now trail by two points behind OSC. The other German  team Spandau may also have some slight hopes but in their current position a win in Bucharest is a  must. The outcome of the latter two matches might also affected last week’s European qualifiers as  most of the players of these four sides were part of the contests with their respective national teams (the  Germans and the French faced off each other in one game, ending in a tie, involving many protagonists  of the Hannover v Marseille match-up.) 

Jug meets Crvena Zvezda which is virtually out of contest – though it will be interesting to see how the  Serbs react to the arrival of their new boss, the legendary Dejan Savic. The head coach of the two-time Olympic champion national team took over the side in an emergency just days ago – and as  a sign what one may expect from his team in Dubrovnik, Zvezda handed Novi Beograd its first defeat in  the Serbian league two days ago. 

Fixtures – Day 10 

Group A (Wednesday) 

19.00 Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) 

19.00 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) 

19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) 

20.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v Novi Beograd (SRB) 

Standings: 1. Brescia 23, 2. Novi Beograd 17, 3. Ferencvaros 16, 4. Olympiacos 16, 5. Barceloneta 14,  6. Jadran 9, 7. Radnicki 7, 8. Dinamo 0 

Group B (Tuesday) 

18.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v CN Marseille (FRA) 

19.00 Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 

20.00 Steaua Bucharest (ROU) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) 

21.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) 

Standings: 1. Recco 24, 2. Marseille 24, 3. Jug 18, 4. OSC 13, 5. Hannover 11, 6. Spandau 7, 7. Steaua  4, 8. Zvezda 4