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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, PRELIMS, DAY 8 – PREVIEW

Every goal might count 

With just three rounds remaining, almost all matches are crucial ones: for Szolnok (HUN) and Olympiacos (GRE) it’s about the top spot in Group A, for Brescia (ITA) and OSC (HUN) here and for Eger (HUN) and Barceloneta (ESP) in Group B it’s about the qualification for the Final Six. In Group every goal can count as the goal difference can play a big part in deciding the various rankings.

Source: LEN



Group A

18.00 Szolnoki Dozsa Kozgep (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)

It was a pretty close match in Brescia where Szolnok had to climb back from 7-5 down in the third period to win the match 9-10. Both teams need the points badly: Szolnok, despite being the host and enjoying a secured spot in the Final Six, are going for the first place in the group. Even the goal difference might play part in deciding the top spot between Szolnok and Olympiacos, thus the Hungarians have to play with full gear. Interestingly, the situation is the same in the Brescia camp as their qualification might also come down to goal difference in the race with OSC Budapest, so they have to avoid a bad beating in Szolnok. A point or more would place the Italians in a quite good position but it’s a tough challenge to be on equal terms with Szolnok.

Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:

“We are playing again with a team which is in great shape. They played an equal match with Pro Recco in the final of the Italian Cup. They have two Serbians, a Croatian, a Montenegrin and great Italian players in their team. They have a great chance to get in to the Final Six. We played a game full of fight in Brescia, it was hard to win against them. I think this will be a tough, tight encounter. We must play hard to win it.”

Bence Fulop, player, Szolnok:

“We played a tight game against them in Brescia last year. It won’t be easy against them since they are very strong, they are third in the group. They have excellent Italian national team players and Southern Slavonic players. We must play hard to win this game against them and to keep our first place in our group.”

Alessandro Bovo, head coach, Brescia:

“We expect a truly difficult match. Szolnok is among the favorite candidates to win the cup: they have everything needed to stay at the top, physical strength, talent and potentially an extraordinary offense. Compared to the game played in Brescia, they have improved, but also our team has grown. We must play with maximum attention in defense, limiting their individuality; and then we need to show great discipline. Achieving points will be fundamental to remain in the hunt for the qualification, and we are ready to give everything we have.”

19.00 A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN) v Spandau 04 (GER)

It’s a win or die situation for the host side: OSC is trailing by three points to Brescia, they have to win two matches from the remaining three and one is due this Wednesday against Spandau. In Berlin the Hungarians earned a fine 6-10 win and they are to repeat that in their home pool. Spandau is just going for the pride as they don’t have any realistic chance to clinch the third qualifying spot in the group.

Balázs Vincze, head coach, OSC:

“Spandau is a very strong team traditionally, and this year’s squad is well rounded, complete and very strong as well. Regardless of the result we had in December in Berlin, we will be ready to play a close game. We believe in ourselves and expect to win, but it will be a hard fought game, where we need to give 100% to win in order to reach our goal, the Final Six.”

Zsolt Juhasz, player, OSC:

“We are coming from a strong game in the Hungarian championship against Miskolc, where I was able to score 4 goals as part of a very good team effort. We are very strong this spring as a team, and I expect that to continue against Spandau on Wednesday. We need to concentrate on winning, so that’s what we’ll do. Hopefully we’ll come up with a strong effort.”

Petar Kovacevic, head coach, Spandau:

“Even we lost the last two matches to Szolnok and Olympiacos, I’ve seen improvement from my team and I think we have a chance to earn at least a point in Budapest. OSC still can reach the Final Six so they will play under pressure as they badly need to earn all three points at home to keep their chances alive. This might be our chance what we are looking for.”

19.30 Olympic Nice (FRA) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)

It should be just another easy match for Olympiacos. The Greeks are enjoying another outstanding season, the only match they didn’t win was played in Szolnok, it ended in a draw. They are running for the first place with the Hungarians and they couldn’t afford losing points in France. Recalling the first game where Olympiacos blasted Nice 17-4, the Greeks should not have any headaches this time either.

Samuel Nardon, head coach, Nice:

“It’s our last Champions League match in Nice this season. We receive Olympiacos, the vice-champion of Europe. We look forward to playing this game in front of our audience and to show the progress of the team since the first leg.”

Standings:

  1. Szolnok 19, 2. Olympiacos 19, 3. Brescia 11, 3. OSC 8, 5. Spandau 3, 6. Nice 0

 

Group B

18.30 Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) v Waspo 98 Hannover (GER)

Both teams lost the chance to go through – and both are going for their first win in the prelims. In Hannover their match ended in a 12-12 draw despite Partizan was ruling the match for most of the time and led 7-12 early in the fourth period but the Germans came up with a 5-0 rush in the last five minutes to save a point. Since then neither side could win any matches though Hannover was close in Dubrovnik, too. Partizan is usually stronger in Belgrade, and that can counterbalance the strength of the visitors.

Zoran Milenkovic, head coach, Partizan:

“Last week we qualified for the Final Four tournament of the Regional League, so after that we aren’t under pressure before the game against Hannover. And we have a big motive. The upcoming match is another great and important challenge for the young players of Partizan because our team needs such games to gain experience. Of course, we want to achieve a good result, also. We surprised Hannover in their pool in the first half of the match. We earned a point but we were very close to victory. Now we want to win in front of our supporters.”

Karsten Seehafer, head coach, Hannover:

„We don’t want to leave the points in Belgrade. We know what to expect and we will try to win this game, though everything is possible….“

Aleksandar Radovic, player, Hannover:

„It is hard for each team to play in Belgrade, which they showed against Jug and other teams in our group. They play good water polo, traditional Serbian style, they have a young team which plays an aggressive game. It will be hard like it was in Hannover but I hope we have the strength to win.“

Predrag Jokic, player, Hannover:

„A good and young team who plays a fast and aggressive water polo and certainly that comes more to the fore in their pool.“

20.00 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Atletic Barceloneta (ESP)

Since Jug seems to be in safe now regarding the qualification, they might have a look at the other group. And what they can see is a scenario where it’s better to be placed second in order to avoid a clash with either Szolnok or Olympiacos in the quarters (that was the pairings in the semi-final and then the final last season for the Croats). Thus the hosts badly need a win against the Spaniards while Barceloneta’s chances are getting slimmer and slimmer by each round. Winning in Dubrovnik, let alone earning a draw is a huge challenge for any team – for the visitors any positive outcome would mean life. Since main rival Eger plays in Recco and most likely will lose, another nil-pointer wouldn’t mean an immediate end for the Spaniards, still, if the four-point gap remains with two rounds to go, Barceloneta might miss the F6 for the first time after four years. In Barcelona a thrilling match with full of twists and turns ended in a 7-7 draw.

Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach, Jug:

“The match on Wednesday is crucial to qualify for the Final Six. We’ve got a hard opponent against whom we hardly took one point in the first leg in Barcelona. They are very fast, very strong in defence, we know them very well. I believe in my team, our players showed too many times that they are the strongest when it needs the most.”

Marko Bijac, captain, Jug:

“The last match showed that the little crisis we had had in February was behind us. Towards the end of season our form is improving and I believe that we will be up to the task on Wednesday.”

Felipe Perrone, player, Jug:

“Strong defence and fast transition is the key of their game. If our man-up will be on the expect level and if we prevent counter attacks, I believe that we will have reason to celebration after the game.”

Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:

“The next game against Jug is our last chance. They are the reigning European champions so it will be a difficult challenge for us. We have worked hard for this game with total concentration and did a huge physical preparation. I know that the players will give all and I expect the result will favour us so we can go on fighting until the end for a place in the Final Six.”

20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v ZF Eger (HUN)

Recco secured its F6 berth in the previous round, this win would also earn them the top place (and a direct semi-final spot) definitely. No team has strong chance of winning in Recco’s home, and Eger can still have a great chance to qualify even if they lose Wednesday evening. Still, if they smell blood they can cause an upset, so it’s important for the Italians not to let Eger in the match.

Andrea Fondelli, player, Pro Recco:

“We want to reach our first goal: to go directly to the Champions League semi-final. Three points tomorrow against Eger would secure that we are in the best four automatically, so we have an amazing motivation. Our pool will be sold out as usual: another fantastic night of water polo awaits us.”

Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, Eger:

“We could prepare as the underdog team, because the teams were all defeated against Recco in Italy. But we will not capitulate of course. I’m really interested in seeing how my team can play against Recco.

Norbert Hosnyanszky, player, Eger:

“Not our team is the favoured one to win this match for sure. But a professional player trains and works not for a defeat, he tries to do the impossible. We will fight for our self-respect, for our club, for our fans. We want to come back from the best team’s home with our heads held high.”

Balint Lorincz, player, Eger:

“Our opponent is the best water polo team in the world. They rarely miss the win in their matches. They have the better chance to win, but we can prove against the best team. The match against Recco is the first game of a long series for us, a good result can give us power for the future matches. We will do everything for that.

Standings:

  1. Recco 21, 2. Jug 14, 3. Eger 12, 4. Barceloneta 8, 5. Hannover 3, 6. Partizan 1

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