Five talking points after Round 6 of the men’s Champions League

Photo credit: Agencija Paun Art

Six more thrilling days await

In the past, reaching the best eight meant a spot in the Final Eight.

Now, with the new format, it secures a place in the quarter-final group stage and six more thrilling playing days to make the cut for the Final Four.

Still, the top eight is the crème de la crème, so we may compare the field to last season’s F8.

Six sides are the same – the four group winners, Recco, Novi Beograd, Ferencvaros and Barceloneta were all there in Belgrade last June (Recco, NBG and CNAB were the three medallists).

From the runners-up, Olympiacos and Brescia also kept their respective places among the elite, while Marseille return after being absent last time, and Jadran Split join the show for the first time since the Champions League was introduced (They won the trophy in the ‘old system’ in 1992 and 1993).

Broken Jug

As for Croatian representation, Jadran took over Jug’s place in the top eight.

It’s hard not to see the decline of the Dubrovnik-based side which reached the Final 6/8 in the last eight editions.

They made the semis in four consecutive seasons, from 2015 to 2018 (claiming the trophy in 2016, runners-up in 2017), then lost in the quarters in their last four tries and now they were eliminated in the group stage.

It happened with a reason as they also lost their home crown to Jadran at the end of the last season.

Thus, they had to come through the Champions League qualification round and were drawn together with Recco and Olympiacos, which put the writing on the wall…

Mesmerising Vogel

Staying in Croatia, Jadran managed to save their last game to a tie against Ferencvaros, though they were three goals down early in the fourth period.

However, this was the maximum the boys from Split could squeeze out from this encounter as they stood no chance in the penalty shootout.

The presence of Soma Vogel in FTC’s goal visibly mesmerised them as now everyone knows that the Hungarian netminder is a shootout master.

He posted an incredible saving percentage at the Worlds in the summer, stopping eight penalties out of 12 in the knockout phase in Fukuoka and four of those came in the shootout against Greece which landed the title for Hungary.

Vogel has an incredible streak in shootouts – his saves earned titles for the national team at the 2020 Europeans and this year’s Worlds, and also for Ferencvaros which won the 2018 Super Cup, the 2019 Champions League and a national league gold in 2019 after penalties.

Add another in-season shootout win from the previous years, and it’s no surprise Vogel stopped the first two shots of the Croats on Tuesday, securing a 23rd victory for his team in as many matches this season and expanding his winning ratio to 7/7 in shootouts.

Italian joy

Novi Beograd helped Brescia a little – though the Serbs had already secured their spot in the quarters after day five, they didn’t let their last game go against Sabadell.

Partly because the top spot means they will be drawn together with two runners-up in the QF round on 15 December, partly because they wanted to take revenge for their embarrassing home defeat to the Spaniards on day three.

This win saved Brescia from dropping to the Euro Cup – so the Italians thrashed Steaua to make the top eight (they also reached the final stage in the past six editions).

Brescia advancing means Italy is the only nation with two teams in the QF Round.

Journey continues

The group stage of the Euro Cup will finish this Saturday and the advancing teams will face tough challenges in the Eight-Finals against the third and fourth-placed sides from the Champions League.

Third-ranked teams will be drawn against a runner-up from the Euro Cup groups on 15 December, while fourth-placed teams will be paired with a group winner.

Probably Dinamo and Steaua top the wish-lists among the respective top-ranked teams as they lost all their matches in the Champions League and were unable to force close ties in any of the six rounds.

Jadran Herceg Novi had some better moments, while Vouliagmeni, fourth in the F8 last time, won for the first time in the last round (against Spandau), still, the Greeks lost narrowly on a few occasions, so they could be a nightmare to any rival.

The field of the third-placed teams feature Jug, Spandau, Sabadell and Crvena Zvezda – though they say farewell to the Champions League, now they can be ‘re-labelled’ as serious title-contenders in the Euro Cup.