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08/11/2017 10:06
16 teams to fight for spot in CL group stage as men’s action resumes
2018 CEV Volleyball Champions League - Men

Luxembourg, November 8, 2017. There are as many as eight matches scheduled for Wednesday as action resumes in the 2018 CEV Volleyball Champions League – Men and the anticipation mounts since 16 teams will all be vying for a spot in the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition. These matches feature a number of rookies – but also a few top teams coming back to the European stage, such as 2013 gold medal winners Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK – who will be playing Slovenia’s multiple national champions ACH Volley LJUBLJANA. There is much fans can look forward with live streaming of all matches available on LAOLA1.tv. Click here for a comprehensive TV schedule.

ACH Volley LJUBLJANA (SLO) vs. Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK (RUS)


-    Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK are former winners of the CEV Volleyball Champions League – they took the crown in 2013 when they hosted the Finals in Omsk.
-    This is Lokomotiv’s first participation in the CEV Volleyball Champions League since the 2014-2015 edition.
-    ACH Volley’s best result in this competition came in 2010 – when they progressed to the Final Four and finished fourth in Lodz after losing the bronze medal match to hosts PGE Skra BELCHATOW.

Zoran Kedačič, head coach of ACH Volley LJUBLJANA: “We have known our opponent for some time now. I am happy we are playing in Tivoli hall because there it feels much more like being at home than at Stožice. On top of this, I hope many fans will come and support us. We need to start good with excellent serve and reception, as these will be the key. On the other side of the net there will some amazing and incredibly tall players with terrific attack skills but my boys know this is a great opportunity and challenge to progress to the group stage of the Champions League.”

Jan Pokeršnik, player of ACH Volley LJUBLJANA: “The atmosphere in the team is amazing. We have not lost a single game this season, but we also did not have a tough challenge in front of us. We learned a few things from the Champions League in the past, so we know how to play against the best clubs in Europe. I am excited and I think anything is possible.”



Plamen Konstantinov, head coach of Lokomotiv: “We know we are still not in the group stage and we realise that we will have a tough game with ACH Volley. It is always difficult to play here in Ljubljana and to get a good result. We will have to fight. They have a very balanced team with a good playing system. Maybe they do not have that many superstars but in Volleyball, that is not the name of the game. If you want to win, you need to have a team. Unfortunately, we have not started this season very well. We had some problems with injuries, which have prevented us from playing like a team. Something was always missing, some important player, like Grozer. He will slowly come back, but after one month without Volleyball, you need some time. We have five players who have been away with the national team and they are obviously physically and mentally tired because they have come back from a busy summer with many competitions. I hope we will soon find our best way to play in the Russian league and hopefully in the Champions League as well.”

György Grozer, star player of Lokomotiv: “I am ready to help the team, and I will try my best to recover from the knee injury. We will have a very tough and interesting game. I played here in 2011 but a lot has changed since then. Whenever you hear something about Ljubljana, you hear only good things. I came to Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK because they play in the Champions League and I hope we will progress to the main stage of the competition.”

Shakhtior SOLIGORSK (BLR) vs. Sir Colussi Sicoma PERUGIA (ITA)


-    The club from the mining town of Soligorsk is making their debut in the CEV Volleyball Champions League. They won the right to participate in this competition after taking the last edition of the Belarusian national league in a closely contested championship series with Stroitel MINSK.
-    Shakhtior SOLIGORSK made a number of changes to their roster going into the 2017-2018 season. The experienced middle blocker Eduard Venski and youngster Viachaslau Shmat, who has played for the U20 national team, have joined the ranks of Shakhtior. The leaders of Shakhtior’s attack are opposite Uladzimir Zhyhmont and outside spiker Andrei Radziuk, who has some Champions League experience from the season he spent with #Dragons LUGANO in Switzerland.
-    Shakhtior SOLIGORSK currently sit in third place in the standing of the Belarusian national league after completion of four rounds.



Viktar Beksha, head coach of Shakhtior: “We have an opportunity to show our best qualities in the matches with one of the strongest clubs in Europe and in the world too. I think many teams out there would like to play with PERUGIA. The players of the Italian team do not need any introduction. We know PERUGIA very well, and on Wednesday evening, we will try to please our fans. The audience is anxiously waiting for this match. Everyone wants to see the stars of international Volleyball. I am sure it will be an interesting game to watch.”

20-year-old middle blocker Viachaslau Shmat: “We are not nervous at all. It is interesting to check how ready we are to face such an opponent. Of course, the Champions League matches are a synonym for something special; you cannot compare such matches to anything else.”

Posojilnica AICH/DOB (AUT) vs. Fenerbahce SK ISTANBUL (TUR)

-    Posojilnica are back in the Champions League after a two-year-long hiatus.
-    The Austrian underdogs achieved some success in their previous participations – and as a result, they are eager to play their mighty opponent from Turkey.
-    The much-anticipated matchup with Fenerbahce will take place in Klagenfurt – but it is a truly historic feat for the club from the small Austrian village of Bleiburg (4,000 inhabitants), which lies close to the Slovenian border.
-    The organisers expect plenty of Turkish fans to turn out at the Sportpark in Klagenfurt as well to support Fenerbahce.  
 
Matjaz Hafner, head coach of Posojilnica AICH/DOB: “We all know the strength of a European top team such as Fenerbahce. However, I do believe in my players and know they can achieve something big if they play their best. We have already gained some valuable international experience in the MEVZA Cup this season, so everything is possible.”

Martin Micheu, Team Manager of Posojilnica: “We know the class and quality of Fenerbahce. Still, our team has the potential to cause a surprise if the players are able to keep the level of performance they have shown lately. The fighting spirit of AICH/DOB as well as the fans’ enthusiasm can lead to another memorable Volleyball evening in Klagenfurt.”

Micheu continues: “A sensation on Wednesday night is possible as the team can play without any pressure against the Turkish heavyweight and can take a lot of risks in all aspects of the game. I am sure our rookies will display their best effort to challenge this great opponent and to promote not only our Volleyball club, but also the city of Klagenfurt as well as the whole region of Carinthia.”



Omonia NICOSIA (CYP) vs. JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel (POL)


•    This past October, Omonia NICOSIA achieved a historic result by progressing to the 3rd Round after edging Montenegro’s Jedinstvo Bemax BIJELO POLJE.
•    The national champions of Cyprus are making their second straight appearance in the CEV Volleyball Champions League. Last year, they lost to Slovenia’s ACH Volley LJUBLJANA in the 2nd Round.
•    JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel are back among Europe’s elite for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.
•    JASTRZEBSKI have made it twice to the Final Four – back in 2011, they finished fourth in Bolzano, Italy and in 2014 they won the bronze medal in Ankara, edging Russia’s Zenit KAZAN in the ‘small final’.
 
Vojvodina NS Seme NOVI SAD (SRB) vs. Spacer’s TOULOUSE (FRA)


-    The SPC Vojvodina – Big Hall is the most popular such stadium for Volleyball in Serbia. It has hosted many important matches played by Vojvodina – as well as by the Serbian national team.
-    Vojvodina NS Seme played their last Champions League match in this stadium back in 2016, losing 1-3 to Lotos Trefl GDANSK of Poland.
-    One of the most experienced players from the home team, Nikola Pekovic (born in 1990), has already played CEV Volleyball Champions League matches in this hall in 2016, and also played the final match of the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup in 2015 (against Benfica LISBOA of Portugal).
-    Vojvodina has a very young team, and some of the players on their roster will play for the first time a CEV Volleyball Champions League match. These are Bozidar Vucicevic, Miran Kujundzic, and Pavle Perić.
-    Nedzad Osmankac will contest his first-ever CEV Volleyball Champions League match as a head coach. Last year he helped Vojvodina emerge as the winners of the Serbian national league.
-    Thanks to the sponsors of the club, who bought all the tickets for the matchup with TOULOUSE, the entrance will be free.



Nedzad Osmankac, head coach of Vojvodina: “Spacer’s TOULOUSE have a great team, which includes several foreigners, but also some good French players. In any case, we will have an interesting and difficult fight. This is also a reward for our players, who are work and making progress with each day.”

Nikola Pekovic, libero of Vojvodina: “So far, I have looked at such a match as an opportunity to be a part of something great. However, I am not satisfied with that. We gathered experience, we stood up and I am sure that we can play with TOULOUSE at the same level, and why not, we can win. Therefore, even though we respect the opponent, we are not afraid of them. I also hope for as many fans as possible. The support from the stands, combined with our desire and fighting spirit, can be the key to success.”

Abiant GRONINGEN (NED) vs. Noliko MAASEIK (BEL)


-    Noliko MAASEIK are playing their match no. 225 in the European Cups.
-   Noliko have played six matches against Dutch opposition in the European Cups – and their win-loss record currently stands at 6-0.
-    Noliko’s team captain Jelte Maan is spending his tenth straight season with the Belgian team – and has featured in all of Noliko’s nine previous appearances in the group stage of the CEV Volleyball Champions League.
-    Last year Noliko beat Abiant 3-0 at home and away as well. Only four players from those matches are still wearing the shirt of MAASEIK – Jelte Maan, Kamil Rychlicki, Nicolas Bruno and Sebastien Dumont.
-    Two players of Noliko – Just Dronkers and Jay Michael Blankenau – previously played for Abiant, Dronkers for five years (2012-2017) and Blankenau for one season (2015-2016).
-    The team captain of Abiant, Wytze Kooistra, won the 2008 edition of the CEV Cup with Italy’s ROMA Volley.
-    Noliko have travelled to Groningen by bus – actually by using three small buses, with one of the drivers being their Team Manager Wout Wijsmans, a former winner of the CEV Volleyball Champions League (in 2002) with Lube Banca Marche MACERATA. Wijsmans featured in the gold medal match of the 2013 edition as well when playing for Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO – but lost that match to Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK.
-    The match will take place at Alfa-College, which has a capacity of 1,200. If they progress to the pool stage, Abiant would celebrate their greatest achievement in history.



Wytze Kooistra, team captain of Abiant GRONINGEN: “These are the matches we are looking forward to. Last year the chances were 25/75 and now 40/60 with a slight advantage for MAASEIK and maybe even more for us. It is important to trust in our own performance. The last few weeks we have been playing good games and we were aggressive. It is nice to see Just Dronkers and Jay Blankenau again. It is going to be a special game for them; maybe they will feel some pressure and this could turn to our advantage.”
Dennis Borst, middle blocker of Abiant GRONINGEN: “We are ready. The Champions League has been in our mind set for weeks now. I think that we are quite stable in our game and feel confident. Our passing is stable and that keeps some pressure away. Our setter Carlos Mora Sabaté is playing extremely well and Stijn van Schie can attack from two sides at the outside so that’s fantastic.”

Just Dronkers, libero of Noliko MAASEIK: “Last year, when I spent my fifth season in Groningen, my former team was happy with the draw against Noliko MAASEIK for the third round.  We thought we had a good chance to qualify. I’m sure Abiant are even more convinced they can beat Noliko this time around.”

Jay Michael Blankenau, setter of Noliko MAASEIK: “The head coach of Abiant, Arjan Taaij  knows my way of playing, since he taught me a lot when I won all the Dutch trophies under his command two years ago. On the other hand, I know his tactics, so I am the perfect ‘spy’ for my new team.”

Neftohimic 2010 BURGAS (BUL) vs. VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN (GER)


•    Bulgaria’s national champions are making their first-ever appearance in the CEV Volleyball Champions League and returning to the European stage for the first time since competing in the 2008-2009 edition of the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup.
•    Apart from a record number of titles in their national league, VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN are former winners of the CEV Volleyball Champions League as well. They achieved this historic feat back in 2007 when the Finals took place in Moscow, Russia.
•    Last season, VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN were one of only two teams – the other being Belogorie BELGOROD – to take one set from eventual Champions League gold medal winners Zenit KAZAN.

Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA (FIN) vs. Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE (CZE)


•    Both teams have started their domestic leagues the way defending champions should start: they have not lost a single match so far. Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA lead the standing of the Mestaruusliiga in Finland with a perfect record of nine wins, and no losses. Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE sit on top of the charts in the Czech Extraleague after winning seven straight matches without dropping a set.
•    Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA take part in the European Cups for the seventh straight season. Last year, they played in the CEV Volleyball Cup losing in the 8th Finals to eventual silver medallists TRENTINO Diatec of Italy.
•    The Finns have won 17 out of their 20 European home matches. Overall, the Finnish team has played 36 matches in European competitions – with a record of 25 wins and 11 losses.



•    Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE have been taking part in European competitions since 1996, missing only three times on participation in the European Cups ever since. Last season, they lost to Israel’s Maccabi TEL-AVIV in the 8th Finals of the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup.
•    Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA are making their first-ever appearance in the CEV Volleyball Champions League, whereas Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE have been a part of this show as many as eight times already. The Czech club featured in the inaugural edition in 2000-2001 and were among this elite ‘club’ from 2007 to 2009 and uninterruptedly from 2012 through to 2015.
•    Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE lost 25 matches in a row in the CEV Champions League before beating Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO in Italy back in 2011. Overall, the Czech team has played 48 Champions League matches, winning four and losing 44 so far.

Sami Kurttila, head coach of Ford Store Levoranta SASTAMALA: “We are not here to get experience; we are here to achieve a result. We have set three goals for the team this season and the first one of them comes now. There is not too much talking or anything else anymore. We need to think that it is not about an individual’s achievement. Some experienced players like Mikko Esko, Olli Kunnari and Urpo Sivula know especially well that their own good work will be enough. Everybody focuses on his own game and great teamwork is the natural result of this. We need no magic.”

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

What’s next?

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.

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