Featuring the crème de la crème of the world’s water polo players, the Group Stage of the Water Polo Champions League Men kicks off on Tuesday. The highlighted match of the opening round is the clash of Olympiacos Piraeus and Jug Adriatic Osiguranje – these two played the 2001 and 2016 finals.
The newly shaped Champions League Group Stage kicks off this Tuesday. From this season, the top sixteen teams will play in four groups of four (not two groups of eight), and the top two ranked sides will advance to the Quarterfinal Round, while those taking the third place will continue in the Euro Cup quarters.
As for the opening round, the highlighted match is definitely the encounter between Olympiacos and Jug. It would have been offering even more flavour in the previous seasons when Jug’s line-up was boosted with outstanding Greek players – now the Croats have other foreign aces, while Olympiacos still relies on a massive Croatian unit, Marco Bijac, Andro Buslje and Luka Loncar. Since title-holder Pro Recco has also been drawn to this group, each match is crucial as only two of the three greats can make the next round – the fourth team, Dinamo has less chance against these top sides.
Group A has two favourites, the runner-up of the last two editions Novi Beograd and regular F8 participant AN Brescia. The Italians’ first match is a tricky one in Sabadell as the Spanish side gained a lot of experience last season and might impose a more significant threat to their rivals, while the fourth team, Steaua starts a new learning curve after returning to the big stage after 2019.
Wednesday’s matches will also offer tremendous excitement. FTC-Telekom, champion in 2019 and medallists in 2021 and 2022 face a tough challenge from the Balkan. First, they meet the Montenegrin champion Jadran Herceg Novi, while in the other match, fans can tune in for another Croatian v Serbian derby, this time with Jadran Split and Crvena Zvezda, a must-see battle.
Group D is just as tough as the others – Spandau, always ready for upsets, is the underdog in this quartet and will play last season’s bronze medallist Barceloneta in their CL opener. Marseille, adding two freshly crowned world champion Hungarians, Krisztian Manhercz and Daniel Angyal to its already quality line-up, is ready to bounce back from last season’s disappointment of not making the F8, though it will not be easy. Right away they clash with Vouliagmeni, the surprise team from last June as they reached the semis upon their debut.
As usual, in cooperation with the clubs, European Aquatics offer free live stream from each game – for this and more, visit www.championsleague.eu
Champions League, Group Stage – Round 1 Fixtures
Group A (Tuesday)
19.30 Astralpool CN Sabadell (ESP) v AN Brescia (ITA)
19.45 VK Novi Beograd (SRB) v CSA Steaua Bucharest (ROU)
Group B (Tuesday)
19.00 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
19.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v WPC Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
Group C (Wednesday)
18.30 FTC-Telekom (HUN) v Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE)
19.00 VK Jadran Split (CRO) v BVK Crvena Zvezda (SRB)
Group D (Wednesday)
20.00 Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)
20.00 CN Marseille (FRA) v Vouliagmeni NC (GRE)
Champions League, Matchday 1 Stats
Group A (Tuesday) Astralpool CN Sabadell (ESP) v AN Brescia (ITA) Previous season SAB: 5th in group stage BRE: 1st in group stage, 8th in F8 Best results SAB: Euro Cup winner (2022) BRE: CL bronze medal (2022), 4x Euro Cup Winner (2002, 2003, 2006, 2016) Group stage in 2022 SAB at home: 3W, 1D, 3L BRE on the road: 4W, 1D, 2L Head-to-head: 0-2 2022/23: 10-14, 4-7
VK Novi Beograd (SRB) v CSA Steaua Bucharest (ROU) Previous season NBG: 1st in group stage, Runner-up in F8 STE: eliminated in QR2, eliminated in Euro Cup eight-finals (vs Oradea, ROU) Best results NBG: two-time silver medallist (2022, 2023) STE: Euro Cup semi-finalist (2015) Group stage in 2022 NBG at home: 6W, 1D, 0L STE on the road, in 2019: 1W, 0D, 6L Head-to-head: No previous meeting
Group B (Tuesday) Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) Previous season OLY: 3rd in group stage, 5th in F8 JUG: 4th in group stage, 7th in F8 Best results OLY: 2x Winner (2002, 2018), 3x Runner-up (2001, 2016, 2019) JUG: 4x Winner (1981, 2001, 2006, 2016), 4x Runner-up (2007, 2008, 2013, 2017) Group stage in 2022 OLY at home: 6W, 0D, 1L JUG on the road: 1W, 2D, 4L Head-to-head (since 2015): 2-6 (2 ties) 2020-21: 11-11, 8-9; 2019-20: 6-5, 9-13; 2018-19: 10-10, 6-10; 2017-18: 8-6, 8-10; 2016-17: 8-11 (QF); 2015-16: 4-6 (Final)
Pro Recco (ITA) v WPC Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) Previous season REC: 2nd in group stage, 1st in F8 DIN: 7th in group stage Best results REC: 11x Winner (1965, 1984, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2021, 2022, 2023), 7x Runner-up (1967, 1970, 1972, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2018) DIN: 7th place in the group (2023) Group stage in 2022 REC at home: 6W, 0D, 1L DIN on the road: 1W, 0D, 6L Head-to-head: 0-4 2022-23: 5-20, 3-13; 2019-20: 9-24, 3-13
Group C (Wednesday) FTC-Telekom (HUN) v Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE) Previous season FTC: 3rd in group stage, 6th in F8 JAD: eliminated in QR2, then in Euro Cup QR2 Best results FTC: Winner (2019), Runner-up (2021), 2x Euro Cup winner (2017, 2018) JAD: Runner-up (2004), Euro Cup runner-up (2019) Group stage in 2022 FTC at home: 6W, 0D, 1L JAD on the road, in 2020 (halted): 2W, 1T, 2L Head-to-head: 2-0 2020-21: 11-2, 12-5
VK Jadran Split (CRO) v BVK Crvena Zvezda (SRB) Previous season SPL: 5th in group stage CRV: eliminated in Euro Cup eight-finals Best results SPL: 2x Winner (1992, 1993) CRV: Winner (2013) Group stage in 2022 SPL at home: 2W, 2D, 3L CRV on the road, in 2021: 1W, 0D, 6L Head-to-head: No previous meeting
Group D (Wednesday) Zodiac Atletic Barceloneta (ESP) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER) Previous season BAR: 1st in group stage, 3rd in F8 SPA: 8th in group stage Best results BAR: Winner (2014), bronze medallist (2013, 2015, 2018, 2023) SPA: 4x Winner (1983, 1986, 1987, 1989), 4x Runner-up (1981, 1982, 1988, 1990) Group stage in 2022 BAR at home: 6W, 0D, 1L SPA on the road: 1W, 2D, 4L Head-to-head: 2-0 (1 tie) 2019-20: 11-8; 2015-16: 8-8, 9-7
CN Marseille (FRA) v Vouliagmeni NC (GRE) Previous season MAR: 7th in group stage VOU: 4th in group stage, 4th in F8 Best results MAR: 7th in F8 (2022), Euro Cup winner (2019) VOU: QF in CL (2013), Winner of Cupwinners’ Cup (1997) Group stage in 2022 MAR at home: 4W, 1D, 2L VOU on the road: 2W, 2D, 3L