Baku, Azerbaijan, March 14, 2014. The official countdown to the Final Four tournament of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Women has begun as the head coaches and the captains of the four participating teams met with the many representatives of the Azerbaijani media, who were eager to ask their questions during a press conference held at elegant establishment of the Park Inn in Baku.
In their busy Friday schedule, in between training sessions and pre-competition formalities, the mentors and the team leaders of the candidates for continental honors found time to share their emotions and declare their ambitions before stepping out on the volleyball court at the magnificent Crystal Hall this weekend for the final showdown of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Champions League.
With the first semifinal, starting at 16:00 local time on Saturday afternoon, featuring an all-Turkish battle between ISTANBUL city rivals VakifBank and Eczacibasi VitrA, the mercury in the competition hall is expected to push through the roof with the very first referee whistle.
Gozde Sonsirma, captain of the reigning club champions of Europe and of the world – VakifBank, pointed out that she is really proud of the fact that two Turkish teams made it to the Final Four. “In this semifinal tomorrow everything could happen,” she said. That is why we will be using all our strength to make sure we win this first game. We are mentally and physically ready to win the trophy.” Giovanni Guidetti, the head coach of Vakifbank, added that they are really anxious and motivated to win the tournament. “A very important thing, not only for us, but also for the other teams, is to avoid injuries during the semifinals, because this could also be crucial for the team’s performance in the final on the following day.”
Eczacibasi VitrA coach Lorenzo Micelli also stressed that it is a big honor to test their strength against their city rival on such a high European level. “We are also rivals in our domestic Turkish league, but our supporters already find it impressive that we will face each other in the final stage of the Champions League,” he said. “But we are not here only to participate. I have been working with the team for a very long time now and I would like to present this trophy to the Eczacibasi fans.” Captain Esra Gumus Kirici confirmed the team’s ambition and high motivation to be successful in Baku.
Naturally, to the local media and volleyball fans in Baku, the second semifinal on Saturday evening is the one there are more eagerly anticipating, because of the participation of Azerbaijani champions Rabita BAKU. But the 2011 and 2013 Champions League finalists have the difficult task of overcoming the Russian powerhouse Dinamo KAZAN in a clash scheduled for 19:00 local time.
Dinamo head coach Rishat Gilyazutdinov pointed out that his team is well prepared and highly motivated to take revenge from Rabita for the two losses incurred during the Playoff 6 stage of last year’s edition of the Champions League. “We are completely focused on the semifinal match with Rabita. We are not worried about the fact that we lost to them last year. As far as the support they will get from the home crowd, it only motivates us further,” team captain Maria Borodakova confirmed. “In fact, we are very excited to play in such a great facility that the Crystal Hall is.”
Finally Rabita captain Sanja Starovic and head coach Eldar Yusubov explained that the team has trained really hard for this much anticipated Final Four tournament at home. “We are ready to win and in order to reach the trophy we are prepared to overcome all the obstacles in front of us,” they stated. “But we also ask the fans to be by our side and to support us from the stands. It will provide extra motivation and encouragement for our team.”
Click here or here for more detailed information on the upcoming Final Four in Baku.
All games will be streamed live online by LAOLA1.tv.
Live photogallery from the events in the Azerbaijani capital, including today's press conference is available here.