venerdì 27 novembre 2015

Jug-Szolnok highlights Champions League day 3

Last year's series between the two teams was highly entertaining. Considering the rosters for this year and the form so far showed, at least an equally high-level showdown can be expected, the first of two being played on Saturday. Round 3 of the Champions League prelims will be highlighted by the big battle in Dubrovnik where title contenders Jug and Szolnok will square off. Last year Jug won the first of two meetings 11-9, at home. The final goal was scored by Aaron Younger for Jug who switched sides to Szolnok this summer, and that goal proved vital over the two games as Szolnok edged their rivals at home 8-7 in round 7 eventually falling short just a single goal in their comparison. Jug however drew level with Galatasaray 12-12 on day 8 to still finish third in group B.

The first of two rematches is set for Saturday. Even more than last season both Szolnok and Jug can be considered legitimate title contenders. For the first time these prelims two unbeaten teams will meet in group B. Both powerhouses are also still unbeaten in the Hungarian league (Szolnok) and Regional league (Jug). Top scorer of the Regional league? Jug's sensation Felipe Perrone with 29 goals in 9 matches. And no less than 2 Szolnok players are in the top 5 of the Hungarian after 8 rounds: Denes Varga is number two with 20 goals in just 7 games, Aaron Younger is 5th already having netted 17. While both teams had their troubles overcoming Hungarian outsider OSC in the previous 2 rounds, the first top match of this group is now ahead of them. 

Elsewhere another interesting battle can be expected in Athens where Olympiacos hosts Primorje in a top meeting in group A. The Greek, collecting just 2 points out of the first pair of games are in need of a win and could not only confirm their ambition with a win over last year's finalists, but also boost their confidence despite the fact that the majority of games in these prelims are yet to be played. On the contrary Primorje did not experienced easy roads to victory in the previous rounds as Jadran was held off 9-11 and Eger came close to an upset but fell short 8-7 two weeks ago. Good news though for the Croats is the return of centre forward Cosmin Radu who dealt with bicep trouble but is cleared to play, being a vital point of the Croatian champions' offence. 
Olympiacos drew level with Eger 8-8 and totally collapsed in Berlin in round 2 as home team Spandau stormed back from being down 7-11 to tie the game and earn themselves a point. Knowing just two spots are up for grabs in group A, due to the fact that Final Six hosts Eger are already qualified, Olympiacos will need to get points from the games against the top 2 sides so far in the group: Barceloneta and Primorje. The first opportunity to do so will be on Saturday at home.

Jadran Herceg Novi will be seeking their first points when hosting German champion Spandau. The bottom two teams of the group face off in Herceg Novi with the home team eager to gain a win which would mean their back in business in the group's standings. Although for Spandau the same applies. Fired up from the nice comeback against Olympiacos of two weeks ago the Germans know even 3rd place is within reach if they will manage to walk away with a win from Montenegro on Saturday. Jadran however have shown their strength at home playing a tough host to favourites Primorje in round 1, falling just short 9-11.

Final Six hosts ZF-Eger welcome Spanish champions Barceloneta for another interesting match-up. The Hungarians are in the position Barceloneta was the past two years; being sure of Final Six qualification as hosts of the event. But to eliminate possible discussion about this rule, and its consequence of just 2 teams able to qualify in group A, the Magyar side will be looking to perform well and following their narrow loss to Primorje in round 2, so far are just ranked 4th having gained 1 point. The team usually does well at home and with Barceloneta visiting, Eger can show what they're capable off playing one of the group's unbeaten teams, already having played Primorje two weeks ago.

Furthermore in group B red-hot favourites and fresh European Super Cup winners Pro Recco travel to Budapest for a meeting with OSC. The dark horse of the group have shown great opposition in the previous two rounds. Favourites Jug (7-9) and Szolnok (8-7) came away with narrow wins but were warned by the Hungarian runners-up. Causing an upset against Recco however, even despite playing at home, seems at least a daunting task. Worse news came this week as first defender Erik Bundshuh on Wednesday in the domestic league broke his hand colliding with an opponent's hand while blocking and more recently centre forward Toni Nemet injured his finger on Thursday in the Komjadi Cup with both players out approximately 4 weeks. 
The Italian and European champions have been cruising in the Champions League prelims so far and dominated Euro Cup winners Posillipo on Wednesday at home for their 6th Super Cup. The cast of international all-stars is more and more getting used to each other and gaining rhythm which simply is bad news for the opposition. Still unbeaten in official games this season Recco now faces a team that is still seeking points after 2 rounds but have shown they can play. 

Like in group A the bottom two teams will face off in group B as well. In Belgrade Partizan takes on former coach Igor Milanovic and his new team Galatasaray. An excellent and interesting opportunity for each of the sides to gain their first points of this campaign. Not the least because Galatasaray coach Milanovic has been working for and with Partizan for a long time, even leading the team to their upset 2011 Euro League win in Rome, and following last year's Champions League win with Pro Recco this year will be coaching the Turkish champion. The squad, still led by its international core of Serbian centre forward Slobodan Nikic, Montenegrin shooter Mladjan Janovic and goalie Milos Scepanovic, suffered clear back-to-back losses in the previous rounds, although managing to score 10 times against Jug at home in round 2. They will now face Partizan: a team well known for being able to perform surprisingly solid considering their age and also the financial troubles that club Partizan is dealing with for the past years. Head coach Vladimir Vujasinovic, part of the Euro League winning squad of 2011 coached by Milanovic, is trying to get the maximum out of his team despite all external factors. Young world champion Nikola Jaksic, absent due to a test at the university in the game against Recco two weeks ago, will meet national team-mate veteran Slobodan Nikic at the centre forward position in a nice battle on Saturday. Partizan were outplayed by Recco in round 2 but avoid a blowout in round 1 against Szolnok at home losing 9-14. Now the young team will be looking for some points in the game against the team who they consider true rivals in their group this season.

Champions League 2015-2016
Preliminary phase

Saturday, 28 November - Round 3

Group A

19.00: Jadran Carine Herceg Novi (MNE) vs. Wasserfreunde Spandau Berlin (GER)
19.15: ZF-Eger (HUN) vs. CN Atletic-Barceloneta (ESP)
19.30: Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) vs. Primorje EB Rijeka (CRO)

Current standings:

1. CN Atletic-Barceloneta 2 - 6 pts
2. Primorje EB Rijeka 2 - 6
3. Olympiacos Piraeus 2 - 2
4. ZF-Eger 2 - 1
5. Wasserfreunde Spandau Berlin 2 - 1
6. Jadran Carine Herceg Novi 2 - 0

Group B

18.00: Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade (SRB) vs. Galatasaray Istanbul (TUR)
20.15: Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) vs. Szolnoki VSK (HUN)
20.15: OSC (HUN) vs. Pro Recco (ITA)

Current standings:

1. Pro Recco 2 - 6 pts
2. Jug CO Dubrovnik 2 - 6
3. Szolnoki VSK 2 - 6
4. OSC 2 -0
5. Galatasaray Istanbul 2 - 0
6. Partizan Raiffeisen Belgrade 2 - 0

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

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