Champions League Final Four 2024, Malta – Facts & Figures

Credit to: Istvan Derencsenyi 

• All four teams arrive in Malta after successful title defences in their respective home leagues. In their domestic championships, all four sides produced undefeated runs before landing another title.

• At last year’s Champions League, Recco managed to tie a record that had stood for more than 50 years as the Italian giant claimed the trophy for the third time in a row. Beforehand, this had happened only once in the history of the competition when Mladost Zagreb clinched the triple in 1968-69-70. Recco completed the three-peat last season: 2021-22-23.

The Italians are set to become the first team to land the most prestigious trophy four times in a row.

Besides this, there were seven more title defences:

Partizan Beograd (YUG) – 1966, 1967

Partizan Beograd (YUG) – 1975, 1976

Spandau 04 (FRG) – 1986, 1987

Mladost Zagreb (CRO) – 1990, 1991

Jadran Split (CRO) – 1992, 1993

Posillipo Napoli (ITA) – 1997, 1998

Pro Recco (ITA) – 2007, 2008

• Recco claimed their 11th CL title last year to further cement their top rank on the all-time winners’ list. Partizan Beograd (SRB) and Mladost Zagreb (CRO) are tied second with seven victories apiece.

• Olympiacos have won the CL twice (2002, 2018), while Ferencvaros have claimed the title on one occasion (2019). Novi Beograd is yet to reach the top, though they contested the final in the last two seasons, but lost to Recco both times (and painfully, in their home pool in Belgrade).

Credit to: Istvan Derencsenyi 

Semi-finals

Recco v Olympiacos

• The teams already met in the Group Stage as Recco won both encounters but only by a single goal in Athens (11-10) and at home (12-11).

• Ironically, Recco is the only team in the F4 which couldn’t make the domestic double (winning the championship and the cup), after losing in a penalty shootout in the cup final against Brescia. Still, Recco is yet to lose a match in regular time in this season (unlike the other three sides).

• Olympiacos enjoyed an almost spotless run back home, they remained undefeated but had one draw in the whole season – against Vouliagmeni in the first game in the league final (won by penalties). Their regular time losses came in the Champions League, two against Recco (see above) and against Ferencvaros in the first round of the Quarterfinal Stage.

• The last team that managed to beat Recco in the Champions League finals was indeed Olympiacos. They upset the Italians in back-to-back years, defeating them in the 2018 final in Genova, then in the 2019 semi-final in Hannover. That was Recco’s last loss in the season-ending showcase, in the last three editions they went 9/9 in the Final Eight matches.

• Apart from fielding the very best players of the two respective national teams, Italy and Greece, Recco has a Greek in its line-up, centre-forward Konstantinos Kakaris who played for Olympiacos between 2018 and 2021. Recco also has the best US and Australian player in its team, Ben Hallock and Aaron Younger. The lefties in both sides are the lethal weapons from Hungary’s 2023 world champion side: Gergo Zalanki at Recco and Marton Vamos at Olympiacos. Croatian goalie of Olympiacos, Marko Bijac was Recco’s netminder between 2018 and 2021.

• The teams are coached by Croatians: Sandro Sukno leads Recco, Hrvoje Koljanin is in charge in Piraeus.

Head-to-head: 7-3

Group Stage (this season): 11-10, 12-11. 2022-23: 10-9, 7-9. 2020-21: 14-8, 13-6. 2018-19, semi-final: 11-12. 2017-18, final: 7-9. 2014-15: 12-8, 17-12

FTC-Telekom v Novi Beograd

• When they met in the Group Stage over the previous two seasons, they never ceased to entertain the fans as they produced high-scoring games with both teams reaching double digits in all four matches.

• Ferencvaros lost one match in the season so far, to Olympiacos in Piraeus, in the Quarter Final Stage. At home, they won each and every game they played, becoming the first team in Hungary since 1983 to land the title with a perfect record.

• NBG also posted 100% runs in Serbia both in the league and the cup, though had a loss in the Adriatic League (against Jadran Split) and three in the Champions League (vs Sabadell in the Group Stage and against Recco in the QF Stage)

• Just like in the other semi, here the two sides feature the key players of Hungary’s and Serbia’s respective national teams and boast a handful of outstanding foreigners. Fradi has five aces from abroad, including Dusan Mandic who arrived from Novi Beograd last summer, plus two Italians (Edoardo di SommaLuca Damonte), a Russian (Daniil Merkulov) and a Greek, Stylianos Argyropoulos. He’ll face his compatriots Angelos Vlachopoulos and Dimitrios Skoumpakis, and NBG also has the best Spanish player Alvaro Granados on board and an Italian goalie, Francesco de Michelis.

• NBG also has some Hungarian ties – coach Zivko Gocic spent 10 years in Hungary as a player and a coach (speaks fluent Magyar), and when he won the Champions League with Szolnok in 2017, he played together with Denes Varga, who is now the captain of Fradi. Indeed, that team featured players who are part of the show now in the four participating sides: among the 2017 champions from Szolnok, Zivko Gocic is the coach of Novi Beograd alongside with centre-forward Andrija PrlainovicDenes Varga is the captain of Ferencvaros, Aaron Younger is the driver of Recco and Marton Vamos plays for Olympiacos.

• This season, NBG was the only team which did not lose to Recco in the Champions League in the regular time – at home they forced a draw (coming back from six goals down) but the Italians prevailed in the shootout.

Head-to-head: 3-1

2022-23: 13-14, 14-12 – 2021-22: 14-11, 11-10