Title-holder Recco visit 2018 champion Olympiacos in the highlighted game of the opening round in the Champions League. Last year’s semi-finalist Brescia will also have an exciting journey to the home of the 4-time winner Jug Dubrovnik.
It’s game time in the Champions League – the main round kicks off this Tuesday and the opening round offers a brilliant encounter right away when title-holder Recco visit 2018 champion Olympiacos (the Greeks upset the Italians in the final in Genova). Olympiacos fell shy of making the Final 8 last year despite putting together a great team. While the key players stayed on board, including Serbian Olympic champion leftie Filip Filipovic and Croatia’s freshly crowned European champion goalie Marko Bijac, the biggest acquisition was perhaps the new coach Igor Milanovic who led Novi Beograd to the final back in June. In fact, Milanovic’s last game was against Recco last season (NBG lost by penalties in a thrilling final), and now he leads his new team against the Italians again.
Besides these two giants, Spanish champion CNA Barceloneta is definitely a favourite in Group A, featuring eight players of Spain’s world champion side – they have an easy opener in Tbilisi. For the fourth qualifying berth a fine battle is in sight, with Croatia’s Jadran Split with three European champion players in its line-up, Serbia’s No. 2 side Radnicki and Germany’s Hannover, playing in back-to-back F8s, running for the spot. Hannover and Jadran has a showdown in this round, while Radnicki take on newcomer Vouliagmeni. The other Greek side is also coached by a former Serbian great, Vladimir Vujasinovic, who is now returning to his home country for his team’s debut.
With OSC and Brescia landing in Group B from the qualification, this part of the show has become even more thrilling. Four-time champion and regular F8 participant Jug, with five European gold medallists will have a tough premier against the Italians, who reached the semis in the last two seasons and barely changed their line-up, so a very combative unit arrive to the wonderful city of Dubrovnik.
Last season’s runner-up Novi Beograd lost their coach, the great Igor Milanovic (entered another legend, Zivko Gocic), but added the brightest star of Spain’s world champion team Alvaro Granados to their line-up so the Serbs should eye the top spot in this group (they have a guaranteed F8 berth as host of the next year’s final). An away game in Berlin has never been a dream start for any team, now Spandau may not put up the same fight as in the past as team has been struggling with a series of positive Covid-cases, still, the game will go ahead in Berlin.
The other big boys on this group, Hungary’s champion Ferencvaros, winner in 2019, 2nd in 2021, 3rd last June, travel to Sabadell. The Euro Cup title-holders are in the middle of a great run which included beating Barceloneta, a first domestic loss for the Spanish ruler in five years, so the Magyars cannot take anything granted.
Marseille produced fine runs in their first two years in the Champions League, reached the F8 both times, though they had a bit disappointing showing on the big stage. Here is their third try, the start may look easy against OSC whom they beat convincingly both home and away last year, however, the Hungarians are on fire, coming all the way in the qualifications.
As usual, LEN, in cooperation with its partner Eurovision, shall offer free live streaming from each game, as well as livescoring and more, visit www.championsleague.len.eu