The men’s competitions’ qualifying process reaches its cruellest phase: both in the Champions League and in the Euro Cup the fields shall be halved, only the top two of the respective groups can go on chasing their dreams.
None of the four groups promise easy cruising even for the favourites as the summer shook up the rosters of the clubs and this round will be a test for the new line-ups. In Group C, for instance, host Szolnok might be considered a big favourite but the team is no longer the same which won the Euro Cup and the Hungarian league. Without its Serbians Olympic champions and iconic goalie Viktor Nagy, Szolnok may find it challenging to advance for the following round.
Montpellier and Apollon both had a couple of fine matches in the first round, and being in play, they may have a shot at the qualifying spots in Group D, even if host Mladost and Zvezda look stronger, based on their glorious past.
Perhaps Group E may see an easier journey for the top two picks as Brescia, semi-finalist last season and OSC, Euro Cup finalist in the spring and producing a 6/6 in the previous round, are definitely stronger than their rivals.
The group in Split, the host city of next year’s European Water Polo Championships, is an open battlefield where home side Jadran will face a pretty tough challenge from Primorac and Barcelona, but Oradea also has some experience at the international stage.
Action in both groups may be narrowed down to a dedicated Hungarian-Italian affair as these teams already posted a series of fine matches last week. Palermo and BVSC in Group E and Vasas and Ortigia in Group F all advanced with perfect records and their fire may burn on for this weekend too.
The top two qualify from each group in both competitions. In the Champions League, group-winners will be drawn against second seeded teams in the 3rd round and the winners of the four home-and-away duels will join the main round. The losing sides move to the Euro Cup where they will play the quarter-finals against the four advancing teams from QR II.
Champions League, Qualification Round II
Group C – Szolnok (HUN) Szolnoki Dozsa (HUN), Vouliagmeni NC (GRE), RN Savona (ITA), Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE)
Group D – Zagreb (CRO) HAVK Mladost (CRO), BVK Crvena Zvezda (SRB), Montpelier WP (FRA), GS Apolon Smyrnis (GRE)
Group E – Paris (FRA) AN Brescia (ITA) Noisy le Sec (FRA), OSC Budapest (HUN), CN Terrassa (ESP)
Group F – Split (CRO) CN Barcelona (ESP), CSM Oradea (ROU), Jadran Split (CRO), Primorac Kotor (MNE)
Euro Cup, Qualification Round II
Group E (Palermo) Palermo (ITA), Team Strasbourg (FRA), VK Sabac (SRB), BVSC-Zuglo (HUN)
Group F (Budapest) Solaris Sibenik (CRO), CC Ortigia (ITA), Vasas-Budapest (HUN), Astralpool Sabadell (ESP)