The stage is set in Belgrade, Serbia, but who can stop Recco? Ten-time LEN Champions League winners Pro Recco are three games away from becoming the first team since 1970 to win three titles in a row. However, there are some strong candidates who may prevent the Italians’ Belgrade Triple. The LEN Champions League Final Eight tournament kicks off on Wednesday in the Serbian capital. Winning the last two editions held in Belgrade, Recco are well set to retain their title and achieve the triple that only Mladost Zagreb were able to secure in the past, between 1968 and 1970. The first roadblock on the Italian sides’ road to the three-peat is Ferencvaros – the Hungarians met Recco in the 2021 final and the 2022 semi-final, Recco beat them convincingly on both occasions. Now the Magyars need to step up in case they want to continue their medal winning streak as they were 3/3 in the previous three editions. Provided Recco passes the first test, they would most probably face their old foe Brescia. They could take down their home arch-rival in the Italian final, though in one game anything can happen. This is exactly what Vouliagmeni is hoping for as they face Brescia in the quarters – though many think that among the Day 1 fixtures, this might become a one-sided contest. Brescia won their group and is determined not to wait so long for their first final – earlier, they had four failed attempts in the quarters. Then, in the past two editions, they managed to make the semis but couldn’t reach the final. Now they have other plans in their minds. The other half of the bracket promises thrilling battles as well. Host Novi Beograd has a mounting task of overcoming Olympiacos, led by Igor Milanovic who had coached NBG last season to the final where they had lost in a shootout to Recco. Playing the F8 at home for the last time is a big chance for the Serbs, but Olympiacos is one of the strongest sides here with the potential to win the trophy. Barceloneta could finally top their group in the prelims, but the reward – a game against Jug in the quarters – looks anything but an easy match-up. Indeed, the Croats, despite falling in the quarters on the last three occasions, always gave a hard time to their respective rivals, and even without a couple of injured players, they are considered a really tough opponent. Barceloneta posted the best result sheet in the prelims, with 13 wins and one loss, and now they need to peak in order to reach the final – a feat they had achieved first and, to date, the last time in 2014. Champions League, Final Eight, Quarter-finals15.30 Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)17.00 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)18.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE)20.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)PRE-GAMES QUOTESZodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) Elvis Fatovic, coach, Barceloneta“In the past I’ve managed to get used to coaching teams against Croatians and deal with the emotions. I did that on the Australian bench when we played with Croatia and we also met Jug last season here in Belgrade, though in a less important match. Jug have always been a tough rival, especially in a single game, so we need to keep our focus on this match.” Felipe Perrone, captain, Barceloneta“Even if we did well and finished first in our group which never happened before, this does not matter here. Tomorrow a new event begins where the chances are equal and you need to do your best to achieve a good result. And even if we come here after a good run in the prelims, we must focus on the next game and not look any further.” Vjekoslav Kobescak, coach, Jug“Even not all the players on board as we have to play without Loren Fatovic and most probably Filip Krzic, we are not lowering our ambitions. Of course, even if we have them, Barceloneta would still be the favourite for this game but I hope other players will step up and we can play a great game. We already reached one goal by qualifying – last year we finished eighth, so we want to do better – now let’s take the first step in the quarter-final.” Maro Jokovic, captain, Jug“Practically, we’ve achieved everything we had wished for in the season, with the exception of winning the Croatian championship. We are two key players less, but that doesn’t mean we hold up our hands. We want to play good games, and this event and this situation is also a great opportunity for our young players. Unlike most of the teams here, we are playing without any pressure – and this is when we are the most dangerous!” Novi Beograd (SRB) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) Zivko Gocic, coach, Novi Beograd“We are playing at home, we have a great chance. However, this is a very balanced tournaments, we have eight teams with almost equal chances to win the trophy. We are well prepared for the first game, we play Olympiacos, it’s going to be a huge battle.” Angelos Vlachopoulos, captain, Novi Beograd“Last year is last year, finished, does not matter anymore. We need to reach a good level, we are well prepared to play three good games and to reach our target.” Igor Milanovic, coach, Olympiacos“I feel myself very comfortable in my beautiful city of Belgrade. And we don’t feel any pressure, no one made huge expectations towards me or my team – I was a lot more excited during those three matches in the local final against our great rival Vouliagmeni. We are here to play good games, we showed in the last round in Recco that we can have wonderful periods as well as ugly ones, I hope we bring the good things here. We have problems, we came here with our first centre-forward, but I strongly believe in my players that they can achieve anything as they have such big hearts.” Konstantinos Genidounias, captain, Olympiacos“Last year we missed the Final Eight here in Belgrade so we are happy that this season we qualified and can play here. In this event everything counts, the heart, the brain, everything and I think we are ready to give our best.” AN Brescia (ITA) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE) Sandro Bovo, coach, Brescia“In the last two years we played the semi-finals but lost both times. I hope we can go one better but first we have to deal with Vouliagmeni. We need to reach a high level in our game, this is the only way we can expect good things here.” Christian Presciutti, captain, Brescia“This is going to be my last tournament, so I’m already full of emotions. We have a great team, and we can achieve great things, we just need to bring our best efforts to the pool.” Vladimir Vujasinovic, coach, Vouliagmeni“For us, this is already a great thing to be here for the first time. We played great games in the prelims, now we want to play good games too and let’s see how far we can go.” Marios Kapotsis, captain, Vouliagmeni“We are really happy to be part of the Final Eight and we just want to enjoy the games here. Our first task is really easy, to play with Brescia (smiles). This is going to be a really tough match, they are a fantastic team, so I think we need to do our best to be on level with them.” Pro Recco (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN) Sandro Sukno, coach, Recco“Everyone expects us to win but for that you need to win three matches and our first one against Ferencvaros is already a big challenge as they have an excellent team and they can play on a really high level, so we must concentrate on that game and not thinking of the cup.” Aleksandar Ivovic, captain, Recco“We won the last two editions, but this is another tournament where we face Ferencvaros in our first game. This is going to be a very big game where we have to do our best to beat them. We are ready for this tournament and of course our goal is to win it again but we have to focus on the quarterfinal now.” Zsolt Varga, coach, FTC“We are preparing solely for our upcoming quarter-finals against Recco. Their line-up is the strongest here, no doubt, but we are determined to put up a good fight. You cannot invent anything big in order to beat them – there is only one way, and that is to win every little duel in defence, then in offence. You have to make one good defence, then one good offence. And again, and again, and again. That can work, nothing else.” Denes Varga, captain, FTC“It has always been difficult at the Final Eight, but this is going to be the most difficult one for sure. We came here to play and not giving away anything for free. We should fight, be disciplined and united.”FACTS & FIGURESClubs• Recco are after a more than 50 years-old record: to win the trophy three times in a row. This happened only once in the history of the competition, Mladost Zagreb made the triple in 1968-69-70.Besides this, there were eight more title-defences:Partizan Beograd (YUG) – 1966, 1967Partizan Beograd (YUG) – 1975, 1976Spandau 04 (FRG) – 1986, 1987Mladost Zagreb (CRO) – 1990, 1991Jadran Split (CRO) – 1992, 1993Posillipo Napoli (ITA) – 1997, 1998Pro Recco (ITA) – 2007, 2008Pro Recco (ITA) – 2021, 2022• Recco claimed their 10th title last year to further cement their top rank on the all-time winners’ list. Partizan Beograd (SRB) and Mladost Zagreb (CRO) are tied second with 7 victories apiece.• In the current field, five of the eight participants have already clinched the trophy in the past – Recco (10 times, see the years below), Jug (4 times), Olympiacos (twice), Barceloneta (once), Ferencvaros (once).• As for the other three, Novi Beograd reached the final once, last year, Brescia’s best effort are two bronze medal matches (last two editions), while Vouliagmeni appear on the big stage for the first time.• Six teams also played here last year (Recco, NBG, FTC, Brescia, Barceloneta, Jug), Olympiacos return after having been absent a year ago, and this is the first-ever tour for the other Greek side Vouliagmeni. From last year’s line-up Hannover and Marseille are missing.• With the exception of 2015 and 2016, Italy have always had two teams in the finals since 2014 (6 out of 8 occasions, including the last five). Recco and Brescia are the constant features, BPM joined them in 2019 as the third one.• This is the first time Greece have two teams in the F8 (Olympiacos and Vouliagmeni).• This is the 5th time that two nations have two teams apiece. It happened in 2014 (Italy and Serbia), in 2016 (Hungary, Croatia), 2017 (Hungary, Italy), 2018 (Hungary, Italy). Coaches• Most of the coaches speak (almost) the same language – we have three Serbian bosses (Zivko Gocic at NBG, Igor Milanovic at Olympiacos, Vladimir Vujasinovic at Vouliagmeni), three Croatians (Sandro Sukno at Recco, Elvis Fatovic at Barceloneta, Vjekoslav Kobescak at Jug), and natives lead Brescia (Sandro Bovo) and Ferencvaros (Zsolt Varga, though he speaks Croatian after playing five years in Zagreb).• All eight coaches have been outstanding players in the past, we have five Olympic champions among them: Milanovic (1984, 1988), Gocic (2016), Sukno (2012), Bovo (1992) and Varga (2000). Kobescak has a silver from 1996, Vujasinovic from 2004.• Three of them have already achieved the rare feat of winning the Champions League both as a player and a coach:•• Milanovic – as player in 1989 (w/Partizan), 1990 (w/Partizan), 1995 (w/Catalunya) – as coach in 2011 (w/Partizan), 2015 (w/Recco)•• Sukno – as player in 2012 – as coach in 2022 (both w/Recco)•• Kobescak – as player in 1996 (w/Mladost) – as coach in 2016 (w/Jug)• Three of them may join them as they were champions as players:•• Vujasinovic in 2003 (w/Recco), 2007 (w/Recco), 2008 (w/Recco), 2011 (w/Partizan)•• Gocic in 2017 (w/Szolnok)•• Fatovic in 2001 (w/Jug), 2006 (w/Jug)• Varga won the Cupwinners Cup with Mladost in 1999 and led Ferencvaros to Champions League triumph in 2019 as a coach.• Bovo won the Euro Cup (LEN Trophy) as a player with Pescara (1996) and Savona (2005) and won the Euro Cup with Brescia in 2016. Players• Apart from Recco’s record-tying attempt, there is a giant individual record which might be bettered: if the Italians retain their title, Pietro Figlioli would write history to become the first player with 7 Champions League trophies. Man of eternity, the Aussie born great, who turned 39 this Monday, is tied first on the all-time list with Partizan’s legend Djordje Perisic and Recco’s current President Maurizio Felugo, both with 6 victories under their belts (Figlioli was not entered for the 2012 Final Four but he played in the prelims).• Aussie Aaron Younger can continue his outstanding streak and clinch a 4th consecutive title – he was part of the winning teams in 2019 (with Ferencvaros), then in 2021 and 2022 (with Recco), and was also champion in 2017 (with Szolnok, so lifted the trophy in four of the last five editions).• Younger, together with Recco team-mate Aleksandar Ivovic they might join an elite circle of players with 5 titles: Ozren Bonacic (YUG, with Partizan&Mladost), Mirko Sandic (YUG, with Partizan), Tamas Kasas (HUN, with Posillipo&Recco) and Stefano Tempesti (ITA, with Recco).• Novi Beograd’s Dusko Pijetlovic can also become a 5-time winner if NBG land the title.• While Younger won trophies with three different clubs representing two nations, Barceloneta’s Felipe Perrone achieved the rare feat to win the Champions League with three clubs from three different countries: with Recco (ITA) in 2012, with Barceloneta (ESP) in 2014 and with Jug (CRO) in 2016.• Serbia’s Andrija Prlainovic holds the record for winning the Champions League with four different clubs (from three countries). The Serbian great (currently playing for Marseille) was synonymous with European success between 2011 and 2017 as in five out of seven seasons he lifted the trophy – with Partizan (SRB) in 2011, with Recco (ITA) in 2012, with Crvena Zvezda (SRB) in 2013, with Recco (ITA) in 2015 and with Szolnok (HUN) in 2017. Quarter-finals 15.30 Zodiac CNA Barceloneta (ESP) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)• Best results•• Barceloneta: Winner (2014), 3rd (2013, 2015, 2018)•• Jug: 4x winner (1981, 2001, 2006, 2016), LEN Trophy-winner (2000)• Prelims•• Barceloneta: 13 wins, 1 loss – 169-100•• Jug: 4 wins, 4 draws, 6 losses – 156-161 • Recent encounters2021-22: For 5-8th: 12-9. 2019-20: 13-15. 2017-18, 9-9, 8-6, bronze medal: 14-8. 2016-17: 7-7, 10-11. 2014-15, bronze medal: 14-12 • Barceloneta produced the best result sheet in the prelims, winning 13 games out of 14. They also conceded the least goals, 100.• On contrary, Jug came up with the weakest run among the eight finalist – indeed, ever since the introduction of the F8, no team managed to clinch an F8 berth with only four wins in 14 rounds. Jug also got the highest number of goals among the finalists.• Barceloneta played seven QF matches since 2014, won 5 and lost 2, including the last one against eventual winner Recco. Though since winning the title in 2014, they could never pass the semis.• Jug had a fine run in the quarters in the past, won four in a row, then lost the last three (2019, 2021, 2022).• Barceloneta’s coach Elvis Fatovic faces an emotionally demanding task – he was born in Dubrovnik and became an icon of Jug, won two Champions League titles (2001 and 2006), five championships and six cups with the club. 17.00 Novi Beograd (SRB) v Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)• Best results•• Novi Beograd: Runner-up (2022)•• Olympiacos: Winner (2002, 2018), Runner-up (2016, 2019) • Prelims•• Novi Beograd: 10 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses – 178-136•• Olympiacos: 10 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses – 175-114 • Recent encounters2021-22: 9-12, 12-12 • This is the second F8 appearance of Novi Beograd, last year they reached the final where they lost to Recco in a thrilling match, decided by a shootout.• After playing three finals in four years (between 2016 and 2019), Olympiacos was thrashed in 2021 by Barceloneta in the quarters (9-22) and last year they couldn’t make the cut for the first time since 2015.• It’s going to be a very special game for Serbian legend Igor Milanovic who had led Novi Beograd to the final a year ago in this pool, now he will be in charge at the other bench.• Also, the clash will be special for NBG’s Greeks Angelos Vlachopoulos and Dmitrios Skoumpakis to play against their former club. 18.30 AN Brescia (ITA) v NC Vouliagmeni (GRE)• Best results•• Brescia: Bronze medallist (2021), 4x Euro Cup winner (2002, 2003, 2006, 2016)•• Vouliagmeni: Winner of Cupwinners Cup (1997), Euro Cup runner-up (2004) • Prelims•• Brescia: 11 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses – 169-124•• Vouliagmeni: 5 wins, 2 draws, 7 losses – 130-156 • Recent encountersNever met in CL • After Brescia had failed to reach the semis upon their first four tries in the F6/8 (lost QFs in 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019), in Belgrade they made the top four in the previous two editions (2021, 2022), though never won in the semis.• Vouliagmeni’s only quarter-final appearance dates back to 2013, the last year before the new Champions League format was introduced. Ten years ago Barceloneta ousted them by winning both legs of the QF. 20.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v FTC-Telekom Budapest (HUN)• Best results•• Recco: 10x winner (1965, 1984, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2021, 2022)•• FTC: Winner (2019), Runner-up (2021), bronze medallist (2022), 4x winner of Cupwinners Cup (1975, 1978, 1980, 1998), 2x Euro Cup winner (2017, 2018) • Prelims•• Recco: 12 wins, 2 losses – 192-102•• FTC: 8 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses – 148-141 • Recent encounters:2022, semi-final: 10-7. 2021, final: 9-6, 2019-20: 13-13. 2018-19: 9-6, 13-7. • When in Belgrade, these two sides should meet: they played the 2021 final, the 2022 semi-final and now face off in the quarters. Recco won both matches convincingly (see above)• After failing to win in the quarters in 2014, Recco played at least in the semi-finals in the last 7 editions.• Ferencvaros had three F8 appearances so far, in the last three editions, and always made the semis. However, their final rankings are declining: 1st in 2019, 2nd in 2021 and 3rd in 2022.• Recco’s Aaron Younger and Gergo Zalanki both played for Ferencvaros some years ago.GENERAL INFORMATION:Dates: Wednesday 31st May – Saturday 3rd June 2023 Venue:Outdoor Swimming PoolSRC 11 April – Autoput za Novi Sad br. 2 Beograd RS Wednesday, 31st May15:30 1A vs 4B ZODIAC CNA BARCELONETA – VK JUG AO (RM1)17:00 2B vs 3A VK NOVI BEOGRAD – OLYMPIACOS PIRAEUS (RM4)18:30 1B vs 4A AN BRESCIA – NC VOULIAGMENI (RM2)20:00 2A vs 3B PRO RECCO – FTC TELEKOM BUDAPEST (RM3) Thursday, 1st June15:30 LRM1 vs LRM4 (SF1)17:00 LRM2 vs LRM3 (SF2)18:30 WRM1 vs WRM4 (SF3)20:00 WRM2 vs WRM3 (SF4)Note: VK Novi Beograd will play the game at 17:00 Friday, 2nd June19:00 LSF1 vs LSF2 (7-8 place)21:00 WSF1 vs WSF2 (5-6 place) Saturday, 3rd June19:00 LSF3 vs LSF4 (3-4 place)21:00 WSF3 vs WSF4 (1-2 place) How to Watch: Live globally on and

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