The ultimate duels
The last round of the qualification in the Champions League usually offers as much excitements as any matches in the main round. Playing on a home-and-away basis, teams are forced to give everything they have. Since this year the eight sides reaching the last round seem to be on the same playing level, it’s hard to predict the outcome of any of the four duels.
In three encounters teams having played in recent years’ prelims are seeking the chance to join the elite circles once more. Jadran (MNE) visits Marseille (FRA) and the Montenegrins have to keep in mind that the French stunned OSC (HUN) in the previous round in Budapest. Jadran passed this phase in 2015 but failed to advance last season and ended up playing for the Euro Cup where they were stopped in the semi-finals.
OSC found themselves on the rocky roads after being upset by Marseille. The Hungarians suffered another embarrassing defeat in the domestic league and now they try to bounce back but it’s going to be a challenge in Volgograd against the Russian champion. Spartak, winner of the Euro Cup in 2014, may return to the big stage after years of absence.
The other Russian team chasing qualification is Sintez Kazan though they face perhaps the toughest rival in this round: Brescia (ITA) reached the Final Six last season and targets no less in the current one. This game might also be regarded a re-match of the 2015 Euro Cup final where the Italians blew away Sintez with two big wins.
Neither Zvezda (SRB), nor Sabadell (ESP) was part of the show since the newly shaped Champions League began in the autumn of 2013. The Serbs won the title earlier in that year but shockingly failed to survive the qualification play-offs and could never make the main round once more. Sabadell, runner-up in the Euro Cup in 2012, will have a word or two while clashing with the young Serbs in Belgrade.
Whatever is going to be the outcome on Saturday, teams have to get ready for the second leg in no time as those games are due in four days.
Champions League, Qualification Round III, 1st leg – RESULTS HERE
11.45 – Game A: CN Marseille (FRA) v Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE)
18.00 – Game B: Spartak Volgograd (RUS) v A Hid-OSC Budapest (HUN)
19.00 – Game C: AN Brescia (ITA) v Sintez Kazan (RUS)
20.30 – Game D: Crvena zvezda Belgrade (SRB) v CN Sabadell (ESP)
Second leg: 18 October