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02/12/2019 11:00
VfB and Knack revive long rivalry as #CLVolleyM pool stage begins
CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Men

Luxembourg, December 2, 2019.  The pool stage of the CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Men is set to get underway on Tuesday for its 20th consecutive season since the European Champions Cup was transformed to the new format at the turn of the century. The first week’s schedule offers the impatient fans eight exciting games. In one of them, two long-time Champions League regulars, Germany’s VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN and Belgium’s Knack ROESELARE will go head to head for the ninth time in the competition as their encounter on Wednesday is the pick for Match of the Week.

20 of Europe’s best club teams, split into five double round-robin pools of four by a draw held in Sofia on October 25, are set to embark on a long six-leg journey, which culminates on February 19, when the pool standings will become final and the five pool winners and the three pool runners-up with the best results across all pools will have booked their spots in the quarterfinals. However, since the continent’s two representatives (Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA and Zenit KAZAN) at the upcoming 2019 FIVB Club World Championship are already in Brazil for the event, their first-leg matches in the Champions League have been postponed to January.  



Wednesday’s Match of the Week between the national cup holders of neighbouring Germany and Belgium, VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN and Knack ROESELARE, will start at 20:00 local time at the ZF Arena in Friedrichshafen.

Head-to-Head
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN and Knack ROESELARE meet for the ninth time in the Champions League.
• Not one of the previous eight Champions League meetings was decided in three sets.
• Knack ROESELARE won six of the previous eight Champions League encounters with VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, only losing in the 2008/2009 round of last 16 (1-3 in Roeselare) and in the 2012/2013 pool stage (2-3 in Friedrichshafen).
• Knack ROESELARE and VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN's last Champions League meetings came in the 2013/2014 pool stage. Knack won 3-1 in Roeselare and 3-2 in Friedrichshafen.
• Knack ROESELARE players Hendrik Tuerlinckx, Matthijs Verhanneman and Pieter Coolman, who are still on the team roster, played in both matches in the 2013/2014 season. Head coach Steven Vanmedegael was the assistant coach at that time. On VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN’s side, only Thilo Späth-Westerholt was on the team roster in 2013/2014.
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN only recorded more Champions League defeats against Russia's Zenit KAZAN (11) than versus Knack (6).
• Knack's six Champions League wins versus VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN are joint-most for them against a specific team, alongside six victories against Austria’s Hypo Tirol INNSBRUCK.

VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN are the only team to have appeared in all 20 Champions League campaigns (incl. 2019/2020).
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN (164) have played the most Champions League matches of all clubs that have featured in the competition.
• Only Zenit KAZAN (113) and Italy's Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA (91) have won more Champions League matches than the Germans (86).
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN's only Champions League podium finish came with their win in 2006/2007. They defeated France's TOURS VB 3-1 in the final in Moscow.
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN could win their opening match for the fourth successive Champions League season. They had lost their first Champions League match of the season in five of the previous six campaigns.
• VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN have won each of their last 14 Champions League matches in which they won the opening set.

Knack ROESELARE
• Knack ROESELARE appear in the Champions League for the 18th time, third most all time. VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN and Belgium's VC Greenyard MAASEIK are appearing in their 20th and 19th Champions League campaign, respectively.
• Knack ROESELARE have yet to collect their first Champions League podium finish.
• The last Belgian team to finish on the podium in the Champions League or the Champions Cup was Greenyard – formerly Noliko – MAASEIK in the 1999/2000 Champions Cup (third place).
• Knack ROESELARE won their opening match in only one of their last four Champions League participations, 3-1 versus Turkey's Fenerbahce SK ISTANBUL in 2017/2018.
• Knack ROESELARE have lost each of their last 10 Champions League matches in which they lost the opening set.
• Last Saturday Knack eliminated VC Greenyard MAASEIK, another Champions League participant, in the Belgium Cup semifinals. Having won the away match by 3-1, the team from Roeselare managed the same result at home and advanced to their fifth consecutive cup final.

Michael Warm, coach of VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN: “Knack are a really good blocking team with a lot of experience. They have a long tradition in the Champions League and have been on top of the Belgian league for years. In this pool, we will meet three very different teams. Knack have a really good blocking team with perfect defence and are difficult to play against. Vojvodina have a lot of good individual players who always find a good solution to make the points, and Zaksa are a top team from Poland. We are now completely focused on the Champions League. We have two matches in a row without any national league games in between. We have a chance to finish second in the pool, but we have to take our chances and play our game.”

Markus Steuerwald, libero of VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN: “It is a very interesting group with three totally different opponents. Knack are a well-organised team that have played good Volleyball for many years. Zaksa are the clear favourites to win this pool, as they are the best team in Poland with great players. Vojvodina are a young team with talented players. They might not be the most experienced team, but they can play great Volleyball and are a dangerous opponent for everyone. For us as a team, it will be a very difficult Champions League season. We play good Volleyball at times, but we are yet to find the consistency we are hoping for. We have to grow together with every game we are playing, and competing with such good opponents surely helps. I hope we can reach our best level in these games and I am sure that if we do so, good results will follow then.”

Champions League action will actually start one day earlier with the other Pool E fixture, where Poland’s Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE, starring the likes of Paweł Zatorski and Benjamin Toniutti and steered by coach Nikola Grbić, entertain Vojvodina NS Seme NOVI SAD of Serbia in the fourth round opener on Tuesday at 18:00. The match has a certain undertone since Grbić played for Vojvodina back in 1993-1995, before going to Italy to develop his brilliant career.  “It does not matter to me. Times and circumstances have changed. Now I am with Zaksa and, although my heart will beat harder seeing my compatriots and especially my partner from the national team and coach at Vojvodina Djordje Djuric, we are professionals and there will be no sentiments in the game, which we want to win,” commented Nikola Grbić.



The big all-Italian clash in Pool A has been postponed. What would otherwise have been a duel between the reigning club champions of Europe and the world, Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA and TRENTINO Itas, respectively, of the first leg in the Champions League pool stage, is scheduled to take place on January 26, since Lube will try to take over as the new crown bearers of the Club World Championship at the 2019 edition in Betim this week. So the first-leg game of Pool A that will take place this week is the one between Turkey’s Fenerbahçe HDI Sigorta ISTANBUL and Czech Republic’s Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE, Thursday’s only Champions League fixture, set to start at Istanbul’s Burhan Felek Volleyball Hall at 18:00 local time.

Ulaş Kıyak, team captain of Fenerbahce:
“We are excited to play because the Champions League is the top Volleyball competition. We are in an extremely tough pool. Our goal is to make it through the pool and all teams in the group will have to work hard to achieve this goal. We will try to play the best we can. Our fans are supporting us everywhere. We need their support as usual.”

Salvador Hidalgo Oliva, star player of Fenerbahce:
“We have an extremely challenging pool. We will try to get as many points as possible in order to make it to the next round. Winning matches at home is very important. We will try to do our best. Right now, we focus only on our home match with Jihostroj CESKE BUDEJOVICE. I hope many fans will come to help us make a first step forward. We are practicing and working hard to get this win at home. When we play away, we will try to do our best as well, but with our fans behind us, we can be a really difficult team to beat.”

The first leg in Pool B features an intriguing all-Russian clash between national champions Kuzbass KEMEROVO and bronze medallists from both the 2018 Club World Championship and the Russian Superliga Fakel NOVY URENGOY. These two sides are currently ranked second and third, respectively, in their domestic league, but have not played against each other this season yet. So their encounter on Wednesday at 19:00 local time at the Kuzbass Arena will be their first for the season. Champions League regulars BERLIN Recycling Volleys of Germany and ACH Volley LJUBLJANA of Slovenia will meet in the other Pool B game this week, scheduled for 19:30 local time on Tuesday, at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in the German capital.



The other Russian representatives in this season’s Champions League, 2019 runners-up Zenit KAZAN, are also travelling to Brazil for the Club World Championship, so their Pool C first-leg home match with Poland’s JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel will take place on January 18 instead. In the same pool, the national team setters of Bulgaria and Germany, Georgi Seganov and Jan Zimmermann, will try to outwit each other as their club squads, Halkbank ANKARA of Turkey and VC Greenyard MAASEIK of Belgium, go face to face at the Baskent Volleyball Hall in the Turkish capital at 17:30 local time on Wednesday. As the team from Maaseik try to improve their 1-3 win-loss record against Halkbank, their captain Jelte Maan remembers their 2014 game in Ankara with mixed feelings. With four aces in the second set, he helped level the score against the opponents’ stellar line-up, but injured his ankle in the fourth set, which cost him the rest of the season.

“We are looking forward to playing the first Champions League match of the season at home in front of our spectators. Our goal is to represent our club and our country in the best possible way. We are going to try to do our best as we have always done until now,” said Halkbank head coach Taner Atik.
 
“As everyone knows, the CEV Champions League is the most important international competition in the world of Volleyball. Our first opponent is one of the strongest teams in Belgium. We want to use the home-court advantage and the support of the spectators to start in the best possible way and secure our first victory. I invite all Volleyball lovers and Halkbank supporters to come to this difficult match,” added Halkbank captain Hasan Yesilbudak.

Joel Banks, coach of VC Greenyard MAASEIK: “We have been drawn in a difficult pool. Yet, I look forward to facing teams from the top competitions in Russia, Turkey and Poland. Our ambition is the same as in the previous campaigns: first, we try to bring our best Volleyball and, then, when the opportunity arises, we will push as hard as we can in order to win games. So, we take it one game at a time, starting with Halkbank, and we do not look any further yet.”

Jelte Maan, captain of VC Greenyard MAASEIK:
“This year, the Champions League promises to be a great challenge again and we start our journey playing a good team such as Halkbank ANKARA. We will do our absolute best to achieve a good result.”



Coached by legendary Andrea Anastasi and led by power gun Bartosz Kwolek, Poland’s Verva WARSZAWA Orlen Paliwa will make their historic debut in Europe’s most prestigious club competition with a Pool D home game against Champions League evergreens TOURS VB of France, steered by legendary French libero Hubert Henno, who is now ready to register his own coaching debut in the European Cups. The silver medallists of the Polish PlusLiga welcome the French champions at the Arena Ursynów in Warsaw on Wednesday at 19:00 local time. 90 minutes later, at Pala Barton in Perugia, last season’s semifinalists Sir Sicoma Monini PERUGIA of Italy, with EuroVolley 2019 champions Aleksandar Atanasijevic and Marko Podrascanin and a long line of other world-class players under the guidance of the prominent Vital Heynen, host newcomers Benfica LISBOA of Portugal, who made it through the first three rounds losing only two sets in six matches played and advanced to the pool stage in their rookie season. Benfica are the first Portuguese team to feature in the pool stage of the CEV Champions League since VITORIA SC achieved the same feat in the 2008/2009 season. PERUGIA have recorded six wins in their last six matches in the Italian national league and can count on a full roster, with the only exception being their injured middle blocker Fabio Ricci.

Marko Podrascanin, middle blocker of Sir Sicoma Monini PERUGIA:
“We start the Champions League with the goal, this season yet again, to make it to the final of the competition. To achieve this major goal, the first step is to make it through the pool stage. Therefore, against Benfica we want to play a good match and win.”

“They have world-class players and are very strong, especially the outside hitters. We have already identified some situations in order to try to surprise them and get a positive result. Nevertheless, we know it is going to be complicated, as they are built to win the Italian league and European titles. We are going to enjoy this moment, in the group stage, to raise the level even more,” said Marcel Matz, head coach of Benfica.



All Champions League games are streamed live on EuroVolleyTV.
For more info on the competition, go to the CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Men section.


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