Though it’s almost Christmas time, Champions League teams are still busy and many of them are getting ready for key matches which may have long-lasting impacts on the qualification pathway leading to the Final Eight in Belgrade. Actually, the big game of the round is due on the site of the finals, in Belgrade, where Novi Beograd and Brescia will replay their semi-final clash which was one of the most incredible encounters in 2022.
The ’big three’ in Group A – all took titles in the last eight years – face different challenges but all are expected to bag three more points. Title-holder Recco play newcomer Vouliagmeni and it’s hard to image any other result than a convincing win by the Italians, even though the Greeks are coached by former legend of Recco, Vlado Vujasinovic (won three CL titles with Recco).
The other Greek side, Olympiacos visit Hannover and can eye a fourth straight win. The reshaped German team struggle to reach the level they had in the past seasons, their disastrous 5-20 defeat in Barcelona last week showed that they are far from being competitive with the top sides.
Barceloneta, also with 3/3 as Olympiacos, will have the most difficult task in this round as they clash with Radnicki. The Serbs had some ups and downs in the previous three rounds but can be a dangerous rival to anyone. In the fourth game, Jadran, with a new coach in charge, should go for a lifesaving win against Dinamo, though they need to be cautious as last year their two matches were anything but easy cruises.
Last week Group A saw multiple-goal wins, while Group B offered thrilling encounters (two ended in a draw, one was decided in the last seconds) and something similar is in the cards. The top clash is definitely the re-match of last season’s semi-final between Novi Beograd and AN Brescia, which offered unforgettable excitements. In the last seconds Brescia’s goalkeeper Petar Tesanovic scored a goal in a 7 on 6, but Angelos Vlachopoulos replied with 6m shot with 0:05 to go to win it for the Serbs (14-13). In wake of Brescia’s last two matches, when they limited FTC and Sabadell to 4 goals alike, another flood of goals is less likely, though NBG are famous for scoring a lot – their goal-production in the first three rounds were 16, 17, 12 respectively. This promises something big for Wednesday.
The next two ranked teams in Group B, FTC and Jug also met in the F8 last May, in the quarter-final, and Ferencvaros prevailed – apparently also with a 14-13 win. Since this group features five F8 participants from the previous season (Marseille is the fifth), this game may have long-lasting impacts, so we can expect nothing less than a thrilling hour in the last game of this year.
As for Marseille, they had a disappointing start of the season as they gained one point in three matches against direct rivals in the race for the F8. Now the French are down to a must-win match against Spandau, however, it won’t be easy as the Germans came away with 9-9 draws from Sabadell and Budapest.
Indeed, these two encounters, the one in Marseille and the other one in Budapest between OSC and Sabadell, feature teams which are all yet to get their first win this season. Three points to either OSC and Sabadell, the two sides coming from the qualifications, would give a big boost and a definite advantage ahead of the others, so this one should be a thriller as well.
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Fixtures, Day 4
Group A (Tuesday)
19.00 Waspo 98 Hannover (GER) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
19.00 Jadran Split (CRO) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
19.45 Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB)
21.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE)
Group B (Wednesday)
19.30 Genesys OSC Budapest (HUN) v Astralpool Sabadell (ESP)
19.45 VK Novi Beograd (SRB) v AN Brescia (ITA)
20.00 CN Marseille (FRA) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
20.30 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)