Final – Novi Beograd (SRB) v Pro Recco (ITA)
• This is going to be the third time in history when the same two sides clash in the final in back-to-back years. Note that Jug and Recco reached the ultimate match three times in a row.
1994 and 1995: Ujpest (HUN) and Catalunya (ESP)
2005, 2006 and 2007: Recco (ITA) and Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
2021 and 2022: Recco (ITA) and Novi Beograd (SRB)
• Last year the final was as thrilling as ever. Host Novi Beograd was close as it led 11-9 after three periods and Nikola Jaksic’s 6th goal 50 seconds from time put the Serbs ahead once more. Still, Recco’s leftie Gergo Zalanki hit his 5th in the evening 12 seconds before the buzzer to save the game to a 13-13 tie and a shootout. And there, at 3-3, the two heroes lined up for the last shots – Jaksic hit the crossbar, Zalanki sent the ball home to win the title for Recco.
This was the second time in history after 2019 that the title was decided by a shootout.
• This was the two sides’ only game so far in the Champions League.
• This can be Recco’s 11th Champions League title – an absolute record. Partizan Beograd (SRB) and Mladost Zagreb (CRO) are tied second in the all-time ranks with 7 apiece. Novi Beograd can win its first title in its brief history.
• Recco is one game away from making the three-peat, a feat only Mladost managed to achieve so far between 1968 and 1970.
•• Three titles in a row (1)
Mladost Zagreb (YUG) – 1968, 1969, 1970
•• Title defence (8)
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
Pro Recco (ITA) – 2021, 2022
• Italian clubs claimed 15 titles and were 25 times in the final. As for the Serbs, they have 9 titles and 16 appearances in the final. The last Serbian club to win the Champions League was Crvena Zvezda in 2013, they also won in Belgrade (in a different location, at the Banjica Pool).
• Since the inauguration of the Final 4/6/8 format in 1997, the host teams won half of the finals, 11 out of 22 (three editions, 2008, 2012 and 2021 were held in neutral venues). Interestingly, in the 8 finals held between 2000 and 2007, the hosts won 7 times.
•• Home sides lifting the trophy:
1997: Posillipo Napoli (ITA) • 2000: Becej (YUG) • 2001: Jug (CRO) • 2003: Recco (ITA) • 2004: Honved (HUN) • 2005: Posillipo (ITA) • 2006: Jug (CRO) • 2007: Recco (ITA) • 2013: Crvena Zvezda (SRB) • 2014: Barceloneta (ESP) • 2017: Szolnok (HUN)
• It happened only four times, that the host team reached the final but failed to win it – though it was Novi Beograd which fell short last year:
2002: Honved (HUN) lost to Olympiacos (GRE) in Budapest
2011: Recco (ITA) lost to Partizan (SRB) in Rome
2018: Recco (ITA) lost to Olympiacos (GRE) in Genova
2022: Novi Beograd (SRB) lost to Recco (ITA) in Belgrade
• This is going to be the second time in eight editions, after 2019, that neither group winners made the final – the title will be contested by the two runners-up.
Since the new format has been inaugurated, 5 out of the 8 editions a group winner lifted the trophy. Twice a 3rd placed side won and once a 4th ranked. This is going to be the first time that a team having finished second in the prelims shall win at the end.
Finals with the group rankings (winners in bold)
2014: Barceloneta (3) v Radnicki (1)
2015: Recco (1) v Primorje (1)
2016: Jug (3) v Olympiacos (1)
2017: Szolnok (1) v Jug (3)
2018: Recco (1) v Olympiacos (1)
2019: Olympiacos (2) v FTC (4)
2021: Recco (1) v FTC (1)
2022: Recco (1) v NBG (3)
2023: NBG (2) v Recco (2)
• As for the coaches, last year Sandro Sukno already achieved the ‘player-coach double’, winning the Champions League both in the pool and in charge at the bench: he won as a player in 2012 with Recco and as coach in 2022 also with Recco.
NBG’s coach Zivko Gocic may join him as he was champion as a player in 2017, with Szolnok (HUN).
• There is a giant individual record which might be bettered: if the Italians retain their title, Pietro Figlioli would write history to become the first player with 7 Champions League trophies. Man of eternity, the Aussie born great, who turned 39 this Monday, is tied first on the all-time list with Partizan’s legend Djordje Perisic and Recco’s current President Maurizio Felugo, both with 6 victories under their belts (Figlioli was not entered for the 2012 Final Four but he played in the prelims, same as this year).
• Aussie Aaron Younger of Recco can continue his outstanding streak and clinch a 4th consecutive title – he was part of the winning teams in 2019 (with Ferencvaros), then in 2021 and 2022 (with Recco), and was also champion in 2017 (with Szolnok, so lifted the trophy in four of the last five editions).
NBG’s Nikola Jaksic has also reached the last four Champions League finals, though he was less fortunate than Younger: they won together in 2019, then Jaksic was runner-up in 2021 with Ferencvaros, then in 2022 with Novi Beograd.
• Younger, together with Recco team-mate Aleksandar Ivovic, might join an elite circle of players with 5 titles: Ozren Bonacic (YUG, with Partizan&Mladost), Mirko Sandic (YUG, with Partizan), Tamas Kasas (HUN, with Posillipo&Recco) and Stefano Tempesti (ITA, with Recco).
• Novi Beograd’s Dusko Pijetlovic can also become a 5-time winner if NBG land the title.
• This is going to Recco’s 18th appearance in the final. In the previous 17 they had a 10-7 winning edge. Lifted the trophy in 1965, 1984, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2021, 2022 – and lost in 1967, 1970, 1972, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2018.
• On contrary, this is Novi Beograd’s second appearance in the final, they lost the first a year ago.
Bronze medal match – Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE)
• Barceloneta played for the bronze medal 5 times, won the first three (2013 v Partizan, 2015 v Jug, 2018 v Jug) and lost the last two (2019 v Recco, 2021 v Brescia) of those matches.
• This is Vouliagmeni’s first appearance in the top four.
• The two sides met in the prelims, Barceloneta won both matches, 13-6 at home and 11-7 in Greece.
• Ten years ago, Barceloneta ended Vouliagmeni’s previous best run, ousting the Greeks in the quarter-finals (and making the F4 for the first time) – winning both legs convincingly, 8-3 and 16-10.