It’s heating up
After a month-long break, here is the grand finish of the prelims with four more rounds in five weeks. So far, Recco and Marseille secured its respective spots in the Final Eight and Jug needs one point to join them from Group B. At the same time, Group A is quite balanced, and we’ll have two extremely important matches this Wednesday where teams ranked in the top five face off each other.
Brescia was the last one in the field to lose a game, it happened to them at home against Novi Beograd – but now they have the easiest task of all, to collect three points against bottom-ranked Dinamo at home and that can secure them the F8 spot.
The Serbs are in chasing mood now, though they face another tough test as Ferencvaros visits them – while for Novi Belgrade it’s all about the possibility to be ranked first (and pride, of course) since their place in the F8 is guaranteed as the hosts, for the Hungarians it’s now a do-or-die occasion. After an undefeated run of eight games, FTC lost back-to-back matches – going down in Split was a real blow, a crushing 7-17 defeat at home against Barceloneta was definitely an all-time low for the club which found itself in an extremely difficult position. They beat the Serbs at home in November but the trends are different now – Novi Belgrade is on the rise, they have a new coach, a living legend, Igor Milanovic who’ll be in charge in their Champions League campaign for the first time which is definitely a big boost for the home side. On contrary, Ferencvaros had ups and downs recently, and a third loss may leave them in the cold with three rounds to go.
It’s going to be exciting to watch this encounter almost parallel with the other big clash featuring Barceloneta and Olympiacos. The Spaniards had a terrific run in late February so the one-month break was definitely a setback for them – as their scoring machine Alvaro Granados mentions it in his pre game quote – and Olympiacos also bounced back after the shocks (lost to Radnicki in Kragujevac, then to Brescia at home). Here the winner gets some comfort for sure, but the loser will see challenging times so the outcome is absolutely crucial in this game too. Radnicki and Jadran should produce a fierce encounter but neither side has a realistic chance to catch the train to Belgrade.
In Group B, the top three ranked sides are in safe – Recco’s and Marseille’s spots are sealed, Jug needs a point against Steaua and this should be an easy ride for the Croats who look to find the right gears for the spring.
At the same time, Recco and Marseille keep on wrestling for the first place – the title-holder Italians visit Berlin where they might have an easier task then the French who prepares for a huge battle against OSC at home. Marseille won in Budapest with ease and now has a 9-game winning streak, but the Hungarians are coming up, had a great game in Recco in the last round and also played really well in the key matches in the domestic league. Facing a tough challenge from the two Germans in the hunt for the fourth qualifying spot, OSC will double its efforts for sure so their visit to Marseille is definitely the highlight of Day 10 action.
Their crucial showdown with Hannover is due in one week and if OSC loses in Marseille – which is still very much in the cards – and the Germans beat Crvena Zvezda – no one would be surprised either –, it would mean that Hannover gets ahead of OSC in the ranks before the grand battle on Day 12.
Champions League, Day 11 – Fixtures
Group A (Wednesday)
19.30 Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
19.45 Novi Beograd (SRB) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)
20.30 Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO)
20.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
Standings: 1. Brescia 23, 2. Novi Beograd 20, 3. Olympiacos 19, 4. Barceloneta 17, 5. Ferencvaros 16, 6. Radnicki 10, 7. Jadran 9, 8. Dinamo 0
Group B (Tuesday)
18.15 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Crvena Zvezda (SRB)
19.00 Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) v Pro Recco (ITA)
19.00 CN Marseille (FRA) v Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN)
19.00 Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Steaua Bucharest (ROU)
Standings: 1. Recco 27, 2. Marseille 27, 3. Jug 21, 4. OSC 13, 5. Hannover 11, 6. Spandau 10, 7. Steaua 4, 8. Zvezda 4