Champions League play-off losers favourite in Euro Cup?

Also on Wednesday the new-look Euro Cup quarterfinals will get underway with the match-ups in leg 1. New look because just four teams out of the 2-round qualification phase made it to this play-off stage, being joined by the losers of the Champions League 3rd round. Their impact to the tournament could be big and includes a good alternative for the ambitious sides who just failed to make it to the Champions League preliminary stage can go for another European trophy. Three of four qualification teams will start playing at home in what for all will be tough tasks to overcome their opponents in order to advance to the semifinals. Round 2 group winners Mornar and Sintez Kazan could be given an even higher chance of advancing. But for the Croatian squad that will mean knocking off Romanian champion CSM DiGi Oradea. The well-known tough side was a recent familiar face in the Champions League group stage but fell to OSC in the play-offs this time suffering from a 7-9 defeat at home in leg 1. Their balanced roster, full of Romanian international and spearheaded by world champion goalkeeper Gojko Pijetlovic, will prove vital in overcoming leg 1 in Split, Croatia on Wednesday before being the heavy favourite at home in leg 2.

For Sintez Kazan, winners of group A will start their quarterfinals in Marseille facing a hungry French champion who is eager for clinching international success this season. They were close to making it to the Champions League prelims but had no luck in drawing Hungarian champs Szolnok in the play-offs. After their close 6-7 loss to the powerhouse at home in leg 1 the confidence of the team, steamrolling in the domestic league so far, is rising for what could be an international successful season. The Russian opponent however has shown its strength. In round 2 home side FTC and Euro Cup finalist of last year, Acquachiara, were knocked off by the Russian runner-up who only tied with rival Kinef Kirishi 9-9 to claim the top spot in the group. The teams full of Russian international, in action most recently at the 2015 World Championships at home in Kazan while foreigners like Serbian Srdjan Antonijevic and centre forward Jure Marelja complete the balanced squad.

In the other pair of quarterfinal matches the teams coming from the Champions League should enjoy the favourite role. But for German title contender Waspo 98 Hannover, and their sensational playing in the first two qualification rounds of the Champions League, the opposition is fierce also knowing that leg 1 will be played in Szeged, Hungary on Wednesday. The Hungarians finished 2nd in group B in the previous round but only after a narrow 12-11 loss to Mornar in the battle for the top spot. In the domestic league the team currently holds 3rd place in group A having suffered 3 losses in 7 rounds so far, as favourites Szolnok, Eger and more surprisingly, BVSC, have shown too strong in head-to-head duels. The roster includes risting stars such as Tamas Sedlmayer and Krisztian Manhercz while veterans Csaba Kiss, Szolt Varga and Aljosa Kunac bring in the necessary experience. Hannover meanwhile is enjoying the quality that the foreign acquisitions brought in this summer are adding. Especially that of Montenegro shooter Aleksandar Radovic who led the team in recent action which included a tight 10-11 loss to Szolnok in the qualification round 2 at home. Drawing last year's Champions League finalist Primorje though proved to be too much for the Germans who were overpowered 19-6 in Croatia in leg 1 before losing 6-10 in leg 2 at home. Their sight by then was already at the Euro Cup where their international ambition could lead them to success. If Szeged proves unable to get a win at home, they will be up for an almost unsurmountable task of making it to the final four.

The same will go for Kinef Kirishi in their match-up with Italy's runner-up AN Brescia. The previous wild card holder for the Champions League prelims voluntarily made it available during the summer stating to be building up a new competitive team with more youngsters and wanting to see whether they'd be capable of reaching the prelims on their own was utterly close of making it that far. A shocking 14-6 defeat in Herceg Novi in leg 1 of the play-offs however ruined hopes although the Italians came close in even making up for that deficit in leg 2 which was won 12-8 at home. Now they will travel to Kirishi for Wednesday's duel. The Russian teams are well-known for being comfortable when playing at home and in this case will have to exploit their home court advantage in leg 1 to get a good result straight away. Two ties in the previous round got Kirishi to 2nd place in group A, behind rivals Kazan, knocking off FTC thanks to their 8-8 draw on the final day. Now team top scorer Daniil Merkulov and Montenegro centre forward Sasa Misic will face a Brescia side that is steamrolling on offence this season being the most productive side in the Italian league Serie A1 so far having scored a total 105 goals. The quality of players such as Guillermo Molina, Valerio Rizzo, centre forward Nemanja Ubovic and veteran Christian Presciutti will be known, also in Russia. For Kirishi the tough task of stopping Brescia's offence if they want to maintain hopes of making it to the final four.

Euro Cup 2015-2016

Leg 1

Wednesday, 11 November:

18.30: Kinef Kirishi (RUS) vs. AN Brescia (ITA)
18.30: Szeged (HUN) vs. Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)
19.30: Mornar BS (CRO) vs. CSM DiGi Oradea (ROU)
20.00: CN Marseille (FRA) vs. Sintez Kazan (RUS)

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

Leg 2

Wednesday, 16 December.


3, 10 February, 2016.


16, 30 April, 2016.

Pictured: the team of Romanian champion CSM DiGi Oradea is set for a tough match-up with Croatian round 2 group winner Mornar BS.

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