It has been an exciting week for Europe’s Volleyball family, which reaches its climax on Sunday with as many as eight matches on schedule for the 3rd Round of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Champions League – Men. The eventual winners of these fixtures – combined with the results from the ‘home matches’ played on Wednesday – will progress to the group stage and join there another 12 elite teams vying for Europe’s most coveted Volleyball crown. There is much to look forward to as all teams involved in Sunday’s programme want to be a part of the ultimate Volleyball show and be among those to be drawn this coming Friday in Moscow.
Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK (RUS) vs. ACH Volley LJUBLJANA (SLO)
• After a long break, 2013 CL gold medal winners have come back to the CEV Volleyball Champions League and started their journey with a victory. On Wednesday, they beat ACH Volley 3-0 in the Slovenian capital to set their sights on the pool stage of the competition.
• The Slovenian team posed a real threat only in the first set but Lokomotiv nevertheless emerged victorious after a close race. After that, Lokomotiv controlled the game – and eventually rallied to a comfortable 3-0 victory.
• Lokomotiv’s star player György Grozer returned to action on Wednesday in Ljubljana after suffering a knee injury earlier this season.
Mikhail Shcherbakov, middle blocker of Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK: “We have a long journey back to Novosibirsk, but the same applies to our opponents. Siberia is Siberia – it is cold there (laughs). Therefore, the Slovenians will have a hard time. On top of this, at home we will enjoy the support of our fans – and this will help us very much, I am sure about that.”
Iliyas Kurkaev, middle blocker of Lokomotiv: “ACH Volley showed their character in the first match in Ljubljana. They are now taking a long journey from Slovenia to Novosibirsk, and this is not an easy thing. However, they will definitely put up a fight and try to seize any chance they will have. We need to put pressure on them from the very beginning of the match, so that they do not find their rhythm. Otherwise, we may end up facing some real troubles.”
Sir Colussi Sicoma PERUGIA (ITA) vs. Shakhtior SOLIGORSK (BLR)
• This will be PERUGIA’s 26th match in the European Cups (19 in the CEV Volleyball Champions League, six in the CEV Cup).
• Sir Colussi Sicoma PERUGIA have won 10 out of 10 matches they have played this season so far – six by 3-0 and four by 3-1.
• Since they won 3-1 in Minsk on Wednesday, PERUGIA will progress to the next round if they win by any score or even if they lose 2-3. Shakhtior need a 3-0 or 3-1 victory to go for an all-deciding Golden Set.
• James Walker Shaw will probably celebrate his CL debut after missing the match in Belarus due to a small injury.
Marko Podrascanin, middle blocker of Sir Colussi Sicoma: “We are focussed only on Sunday’s matchup because at this stage our main goal is to progress to the group stage of the CEV Volleyball Champions League. After that, on Monday we will set sights on the national league again and on the matchup with TRENTINO. However, right now we need to defeat Shakhtior and, unlike the match on Wednesday, we need to get off to a good start, put pressure from the very first rally and secure our qualification as quickly as possible. In the first leg, the Belarussians proved to have good qualities and they are coming to Perugia with no pressure at all. We know our qualities too and I am sure that we will take on this match in the best possible way and secure our progression to the next round.”
Viktar Beksha, head coach of Shakhtior SOLIGORSK: “PERUGIA are one of the strongest teams in the world. Back home we took to the court with the desire to win. Our reception was especially good and PERUGIA did not expect us to be so determined. As a result, we could win the first set. As for the rematch, we know that PERUGIA will be trying to impose their rhythm and with the home-court advantage on their side, they will be trying to secure their spot in the next round. We have everything to be able to play well and deliver a great match.”
Fenerbahce SK ISTANBUL (TUR) vs. Posojilnica AICH/DOB (AUT)
• After their 3-0 away victory, Fenerbahce need to take at least two sets from the re-match with Posojilnica to secure their progression to the group stage.
• Fenerbahce have returned to the CL stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.
• This matchup is some kind of a David vs. Goliath fixture – with Fenerbahce representing Turkey and a huge megalopolis such as Istanbul, whereas Posojilnica come from a small Austrian village with some 4,000 inhabitants.
• This season the roster of Fenerbahce includes mainly Turkish players plus three foreigners – Alen Sket (Slovenia), Guillaume Quesque (France) and Jurii Gladyr (Ukraine).
JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel (POL) vs. Omonia NICOSIA (CYP)
• JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel has returned to the European Cups after a two years’ break.
• Two seasons back, these teams were going to lock horns in the CEV Volleyball Cup, but JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel withdrew from that competition due to financial problems.
• Jakub Popiwczak, libero of JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel, is the only player from the current team who was a member of the Polish side in 2014 as well, when they achieved their best result in the CEV Volleyball Champions League by winning bronze at the Finals in Ankara.
• Sunday’s matchup will be only the second for the star player of JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel, Salvador Hidalgo Oliva in the Champions League. Wednesday’s match in Nicosia was his debut in this competition.
• This is not the first match for head coach Ioannis Kalmazidis in Jastrzębie-Zdrój. Back in 2011, he was at the helm of Olympiacos PIRAEUS in another Champions League fixture. The match held at the JASTOR ice hall ended in a 3-0 victory for the hosts.
Mark Lebedew, coach of JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel: “I am happy with the first match. To win three points is important and means we can be relaxed and aggressive on Sunday.”
Ioannis Kalmazidis, coach of Omonia NICOSIA. “The first match and the result showed how big the difference is between Volleyball in Poland and in Cyprus. However, we also know that the nicest side of sport are surprises and ‘illogical’ results. On Sunday, we will do everything we can to be a worthy opponent for JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel and play the best we can.”
Spacer’s TOULOUSE (FRA) vs. Vojvodina NS Seme NOVI SAD (SRB)
• Spacer’s TOULOUSE are making their Champions League debut this season after two appearances in the CEV Cup.
• Vojvodina need to take two sets from the re-match to progress to the next round since on Wednesday they rallied to a comprehensive 3-0 home victory.
• Back in 2015, Vojvodina made history by winning the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – the first Serbian team to achieve this feat, i.e. standing on top of the podium in any of the European Cups.
• Vojvodina’s roster includes only Serbian players – whilst Spacer’s TOULOUSE have assembled players from six countries (apart from France, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Spain and Sweden).
Noliko MAASEIK (BEL) vs. Abiant GRONINGEN (NED)
• This is the fourth matchup between Noliko MAASEIK and Abiant GRONINGEN within 12 months. Noliko have won three out of three so far: twice 3-0 in 2016, 3-1 last Wednesday on the road.
• The winner of this tie gets a spot in the group stage of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Champions League, whereas the losers will meet SWD powervolleys DÜREN of Germany in the CEV Volleyball Cup.
• This is Noliko MAASEIK’s first European Cup game in the Steengoed Arena, since the name of their home venue changed this summer.
• No less than seven Abiant players know the hall in Maaseik since they were part of last year’s team, when Noliko beat them 3-0 at home: Auke van de Kamp, Stijn van Schie, Dennis Borst, Sander Scheper, Niels de Vries, Wytze Kooistra, and Sam Gortzak.
• Wytze Kooistra is the only Abiant player who figured in a European Cup game against MAASEIK before the 2016 and 2017 duels. In 2008, ten seasons ago, he emerged as the winner of the CEV Cup after a 3-0 victory with M. ROMA Volley in the final against Noliko. Luigi Mastrangelo, Paolo Tofoli, Ivan Miljkovic and Leonel Marshall were among his teammates at the time.
Jolan Cox, opposite hitter of Noliko MAASEIK: “Last Wednesday we could only grab the win in Groningen by playing as a team. Abiant showed a lot of quality on court and gave us a hard time. It was not easy to win over there, so it will not be easy to beat them at home either.”
Jay Michael Blankenau, setter of Noliko: “Abiant GRONINGEN can rely on a strong block. With all these tall players in their team, they will put pressure on us. Therefore, it is important for us to sharpen up a few things in comparison to last Wednesday’s away game. We will have to come out firing from the first point on.”
Carlos Mora Sabaté, setter of Abiant GRONINGEN: “We still believe in our qualification to the next round. Last Wednesday we showed that we could compete with MAASEIK. If we are smarter and we learn from our mistakes, we can make it a lot tougher for them.”
Wytze Kooistra, middle blocker and team captain of Abiant: “It will be a hard task to eliminate Noliko. To be honest, their strength was clear last Wednesday. However, if we manage to win two sets, the game will change completely. I hope this will happen, since Champions League games are always very interesting to play.”
VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN (GER) vs. Neftohimic 2010 BURGAS (BUL)
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN won the CEV Volleyball Champions League in 2007 – and remain the only German team to have achieved this feat. Setter Simon Tischer and libero Markus Steuerwald are still in the roster for the 2017-2018 season.
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN have participated in every single edition of the CEV Volleyball Champions League since the inaugural one in the 2000-2001 season.
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN have taken the first domestic trophy of the current season when beating rivals BERLIN Recycling Volleys in the Supercup.
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN have not lost a single match this season so far – by combining national and European competitions.
• Valentin Bratoev is a name the German fans are familiar with since he used to play for the club from the Lake of Constance back in 2013.
Simon Tischer, setter and team captain of VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN: “We played pretty well but not to the best of our abilities in Burgas. However, I am sure we can improve our game and we will not the Bulgarians rise any hope on Sunday. We are focussed on making it to the group stage of this competition.”
Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE (CZE) vs. Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA (FIN)
• Ford Store Levoranta claimed a 3-0 home victory on Wednesday.
• If they progress to the next round, i.e. to the group stage of the competition, they will become the first men’s team from Finland to achieve this feat.
• On the other hand, Jihostroj want to please their home fans with a victory.
Petr Michalek, player of Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE: “I hope we will take our revenge for the loss we had to accept in Sastamala. I know we must improve our performance if we want to be successful. We have to serve better than we did in the first match and we must believe in ourselves.”
Sami Kurttila, head coach of Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA: “We have just arrived to Ceske Budejovice and our focus is on tomorrow’s game. We have to keep our level high and stable. We have to concentrate on every ball.”
How to follow the matches…
Watch them live: http://cev.laola1.tv/
Live score, statistics, reports and photos: all available on www.cev.lu
Social Media: Follow via the official event hashtag (#CLVolleyM) with the most regular updates coming on our competition Twitter account @CEVolleyballCL
The eventual winners of the third-round fixtures will progress to the pool stage of the competition, with the Drawing of Lots due to take place on November 17, 2017 in Moscow.
photo and video source.cev.lu