Pro Recco face CN Marseille and Novi Beograd play against Jadran Split in new Champions League format

The new playing format of the Champions League has turned the ‘old Final Eight’ into a thrilling six-day Quarter Final Stage featuring the very best teams in the continent, with this week’s opening day of action offering four outstanding clashes straight away.

Champions League, Quarter Final Stage, Day 1
(local times shown)

Group A (Friday)

18.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Marseille (FRA)
19.45 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO)

Group B (Saturday)

12.30 Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v AN Brescia (ITA)
20.30 FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)

The Champions League Quarter Final Stage starts after the longest break we’ve ever seen in a club season (as back-to-back European Water Polo Championships and World Water Polo Championships were staged in January and February).

Thus, it’s hard to foresee in what shape the teams return to the big stage as only a handful of players in the rosters were not part of the national teams’ quests for glory in Croatia and then in Qatar.

The autumn games in the Champions League group stage saw three sides delivering flawless performances.

Title-holder Recco, last season’s bronze medallists Barceloneta and 2019 champion Ferencvaros blew all their respective rivals away, and 2022 and 2023 runners-up Novi Beograd also did well.

Recco and Ferencvaros are yet to lose a match in this season, in any competition. However, after three long months, maintaining that run might not be easy.

Recco’s opener against Marseille still promises another victory for the Italian giants. If not else, the head-to-head suggests this as Recco won all five previous encounters.

The other match in Group A offers another edition of a Serbian-Croatian duel between the two nations’ champions.

Partly, this can be considered a rematch of the World Championships quarter-final as many players clashed in Doha too – then the Croats dominated, now the Serbs are the favourites (as they also have quality foreign stars).

Ferencvaros face off against Olympiacos in the big match on Saturday.

Most of their players came back empty-handed from Doha (and Zagreb), so they should be hungry for success.

Both teams have four outstanding foreign stars on board, and to make it even more interesting, the Hungarians’ key player is a Greek, Stylianos Argyropoulos, while the Greeks rely heavily on the services of their Hungarian leftie Marton Vamos (and these two spent long years in the other club previously).

As for Saturday’s other game, apart from two group-stage wins from the 2020-21 season, Brescia have usually taken the upper hand against Barceloneta in the past.

The Spaniards have beaten the Italians in two of their 11 matches since 2015 – this trend may change as Barceloneta had a really impressive run in the group stage.

Add that most of their players spent the past months together in the Spanish team which landed the European title then clinched the bronze at the Worlds.

Brescia experienced some ups and downs before December, but they are the team which can always cause some surprise.

You can follow all the action and results live on the dedicated European Aquatics Champions League website.

Stats
Group A
Pro Recco (ITA) v CN Marseille (FRA)
Prelims
Recco 6-0-0-0 (81-52) – Marseille: 3-0-0-3 (69-68)
Head-to-head: 5-0
2021-22: 11-8, 13-7. 2020-21: 10-8, 11-9. 2019-20: 13-9.

Novi Beograd (SRB) v Jadran Split (CRO)
Prelims
NBG 5-0-0-1 (78-44) – Jadran 3-0-1-2 (81-78)
Head-to-head: 2-0
2021-22: 14-7, 17-12.

Group B
Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v AN Brescia (ITA)
Prelims
CNAB: 6-0-0-0 (79-52) – Brescia: 3-1-0-2 (62-56)
Head-to-head: 2-6 (3d)
2021-22: 12-12, 12-14. 2020-21: 10-9, 8-6, 7-13 (bronze). 2018-19: 8-8, 8-14. 2017-18: 5-7, 5-6. 2015-16: 4-12, 7-7.

FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)

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