The top spots and the last berth at stake
The penultimate day in the prelims promises great excitements again: in Group A the top spot is still up for grabs, Olympiacos can secure it but it might go down to the last round if Eger also wins. And the last available berth can also be booked, by Barceloneta, provided Primorje is defeated in Eger. In Group B the top three sides have already advanced to the Final Six, only the ranks are at stake, though the current classification well can become the final one.
16.00 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
In the second weekend of November Spandau did a kind of miracle saving the match against Olympiacos to a draw after being 1-6 down in the first period and trailing 6-11 late in the third but the Germans scored five unanswered goals to catch up the Greeks at 11-11. Since that match the journey of the two sides took different directions: Spandau clinched three more ties but still seeks its first win while Olympiacos managed to remain unbeaten even after eight matches (they are the only team in the prelims without a loss). The Greeks have already secured their place in the Final Six and need this win in order to maintain their lead in the group – if they earn three points as expected and Eger can’t beat Primorje, then Olympiacos clinches the top spot regardless of the outcome of the final round.
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Olympiacos
“We play the last two games at home, so we want to win both in order to finish in the first place. We want only win against Spandau which is the team that forced us to commit the biggest mistake of the last year, in the second round. We have to be serious, ambitious and disciplined in order to win the match that will be played on Holy Saturday. We want to please our loyal fans that will come to the pool in that festive day. Together we want to achieve another great victory in the Champions League.”
Ioannis Fountoulis, player, Olympiacos:
“This is another important game for us. We are on the top of the group and in order to remain there, we have to win both last games in our home. In the game against Spandau in Germany we didn’t have a good time. Spandau is a team that can take advantage of the mistakes you make and if you underscore them you will face problems. In Saturday all we want is to win, in order to find ourselves even closer to our goal that is to finish in the first place of the group.”
19.00 Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) v CN Barceloneta (ESP)
A win for Barceloneta combined with a win by Eger over Primorje would send the Spaniards through. They can determine their own faith as they have a point advantage over the Croats and they play both their remaining matches against the two already relegated sides. The hurdles are there, though, as both encounters are due away and Jadran seemed to be more dangerous at home. Still, the Montenegrins had only three draws so far so a Spanish victory is very much in the cards now.
Chus Martin, head coach, Barceloneta:
“It is a very important game for us. Only winning is in our mind and we can be closer to playing in the Final Six in Budapest. We respect Jadran, it’s a young team that has improved a lot, it is very difficult to beat them at home. We have to play very well in defense if we want to win.”
19.30 ZF-Eger (HUN) v Primorje Erste Banka Rijeka (CRO)
A fine comeback in the last period in Barcelona – a devastating loss at home to Olympiacos: pretty telling stories on the recent forms of the two sides. While Eger is battling to clinch the top spot, a very fair approach since they enjoy a secured berth in the F6 as the host, Primorje is on the brink of elimination. The Croats, heavily beaten by the Greeks in the last round (4-11, the worst home defeat for ages) can only hope to earn as many points as they can and praying for Barceloneta’s failing to win both its remaining matches.
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach, ZF-Eger:
“The situation is the same that one round ago. We have to win the last two games to reach our goals. Of course we know, that Rijeka is a very strong opponent, like Olympiacos in the final round. This is the Champions League, the tournament of the best teams! I’m proud, that we can be here.”
Balázs Erdelyi, player, ZF-Eger:
“The excitements are growing, we are already close to the final. There is no chance to correct any mistakes here, we need to accomplish our goals right now. Everybody wants to show his best, this is why we worked hard in the whole season. We have a great chance, but we need to defeat Rijeka first. This is not an easy project, but at home, backed by our enthusiastic fans, we have the better chance.”
Krisztian Bedo, player, ZF-Eger:
“Before we start talking about the Olympics, we have to close down a really strong season. We don’t want to lose another match in the Champions League and in the Hungarian league. I want to start the trainings for the Olympics with victories behind us. But every time the next step is the most important. Now this is the game against Rijeka. We have a good team and a great chance, so we will defeat our opponent.”
1. Olympiacos 18, 2. Eger 15, 3. Barceloneta 12, 4. Primorje 11, 5. Spandau 4, 6. Jadran 3
18.00 Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v Galatasaray Istanbul (TUR)
Jug might hope for a hiccup from Szolnok and regain the second place in the group – but based on the expected outcomes, the Croats will have to settle for the third place. It’s already secured so the remaining two matches at home, against Galatasaray and OSC will serve as a lead-up for the grand finish of the season.
18.00 Partizan Belgrade (SRB) v Pro Recco (ITA)
Though Recco could not produce the same devastating performances as in the early rounds – they drew in Dubrovnik, lost in Szolnok and suffered a bit against OSC – they are still top favourites to win in Belgrade against the youngsters of Partizan and so they are the right track to finish atop and book a berth directly in the semifinals.
Vladimir Vujasinovic, head coach, Partizan:
“We were satisfied with the score in Istanbul against team Galatasaray (it ended 9-9). Every point is important for us, so we will seek for our chance even against teams like Pro Recco and Szolnok.”
20.00 OSC Budapest (HUN) v Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN)
The in-house battle of the Hungarian teams might offer a huge battle even if OSC already bowed out. The Budapest based side is well-known for causing headaches even for the top teams, just as they did in the last round in Sori, holding Recco on 7 goals. They struggle in attack as they had problems in the centre-forward position throughout the entire season but their never-give-up approach will give a tough time for Szolnok. Last season this was the pairing in the domestic final, this year OSC could not reach the last stage (Szolnok will face Eger) and they might have hoped for a different premiere in the Champions League prelims, but they will surely look for a worthy ending of their journey in their last contest at home.
Sandor Cseh, head coach, Szolnok:
“It is a great achievement that we got into the Final Six and even greater result that we may become first in our group. Although the reality is the second place. In order to achieve that we have to collect 4 points in the 2 encounters we have ahead of us. We need the second place in the group so we can avoid playing with Pro Recco and Eger in the various stages of the Final Six.
Denes Varga, player, Szolnok
“I am expecting a win against OSC on Saturday in their home pool but it won’t be an easy game. It will be a different playing style than our last encounter with them when we won by 4 goals. Hope to have a fantastic and even game.”
1. Recco 19, 2. Szolnok 18, 3. Jug 16, 4. OSC 9, 5. Partizan 7, 6. Galatasaray 1