giovedì 16 aprile 2015

LEN Champions League 2014-2015: Radnicki starts daunting quest

With just two more rounds to play in the Champions League preliminary phase it is all or nothing for Serbian side Radnicki in the race for the last Final Six berth. The Serbian cup winners on Saturday host Olympiacos and will need a win in order to keep the pressure on current group A 2nd seed ZF-Eger. And even in case of a victory over the Greek powerhouse Radnicki has the daunting task of upsetting undefeated group leaders Pro Recco to complete their quest for the Final Six. Even more challenging will be the fact that Olympiacos recorded a solid 13-7 win over Radnicki at home on day 2 so now the young Serbian side know what it's up to going into the penultimate round of action on Saturday. And Olympiacos are not yet eliminated either. Holding a positive goal scoring difference over 2 match-ups with Eger, the Greek squad could still turn around the Final Six race if they win their final pair of prelims matches. 

Kicking off day 9 though are Brescia and Barceloneta who will meet on Friday already in Italy. The Final Six hosts are already secured of a spot in the late May tournament at home in Barcelona, while Brescia hopes to get away from the last spot in group A displaying a disappointing campaign for the ambitious Italian runners-up so far. A 7-7 draw in the teams meeting in Barcelona on day 2 could promise a close game on Friday. 

Elsewhere the following day group A leaders Pro Recco host ZF-Eger in the top match-up of the day despite the fact that Recco proved too strong in Eger in round 2 walking away to a 4-12 victory. The Hungarian champions since then have played a capricious preliminary phase but were there went it counted the most to currently ranked 2nd in the group and being very close to securing the final berth for the Final Six tournament. 

In group B the top sides avoid each other once more on Saturday as the battle for the top spots in group continues but is unlikely to change after Saturday's round, especially since Szolnok, Primorje and Jug enjoy home games. Primorje will be sharp to not be surprised by Galatasaray as fellow Croatian side Jug was in the last round drawing level 12-12 after a late comeback. Jug meanwhile on Saturday host the young Partizan squad, who are gearing up for the domestic play-offs and gave the Dubrovnik based side a hard time in Belgrade on day 2 as Jug there won 3-5 but on Saturday will still be playing without starting centre forward Niksa Dobud, provisionally suspended by FINA for all competition due to alleged anti-doping rule violation following Croatia's World League match in Montenegro back in March. Group leaders Szolnok hosts German squad Spandau as the Germans will be looking to improve on the 7-17 loss to the Hungarian favourites on day 2 at home while Szolnok looks more and more improved as a team ready to play for the trophies in the upcoming crunch time of the season.

Champions League 2014-2015
Preliminary round

Day 9

Friday, 17 April:

19.00: AN Brescia (ITA) vs. CN Atletic-Barceloneta (ESP)

Saturday, 18 April:

17.15: Primorje EB Rijeka (CRO) vs. Galatasaray Istanbul (TUR)
18.00: VK Radnicki Kragujevac (SRB) vs. Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
18.00: Szolnoki VSK (HUN) vs. Wasserfreunde Spandau Berlin (GER)
19.00: Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) vs. Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB)
20.30: Pro Recco (ITA) vs. ZF-Eger (HUN)

The current standings are:

Group A
1. Pro Recco 8 - 24 pts
2. ZF-Eger 8 - 13
3. VK Radnicki Kragujevac 8 - 9
4. C.N. Atletic-Barceloneta 8 - 11
5. Olympiacos Piraeus 8 - 7
6. AN Brescia 8 - 5

Group B
1. Szolnoki VSK 8 - 21 pts
2. Primorje EB Rijeka 8 - 18
3. Jug CO Dubrovnik 8 - 16
4. Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade 8 - 6
5. Wasserfreunde Spandau Berlin 8 - 6
6. Galatasaray Istanbul 8 - 4

N.b.: times mentioned are local time.

* Hosts Barceloneta automatically qualified for Final Six (28-30 May in Barcelona)
* Top 2 (ex Barceloneta, group A) and top 3 (group B) qualify for Final Six.
* Group winners advance to Final Six semifinals directly.

Pictured: Radnicki standout Nikola Dedovic.

Final Six tickets on sale, click here.

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