Club Volleyball

    #CLVolleyW: The predictions

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    Article Fri, Nov 19 2021
    Author: Nikolay Markov
    Nikolay Markov

    After I previewed the upcoming pool stage of the women’s CEV Champions League Volley and went over the newcomers, the superfinalists of the previous edition and the main transfers of the off-season earlier this week, now it’s time to have some Friday fun with an attempt to predict the unpredictable, i.e. the results of a volleyball competition.

    European and world champs Imoco celebrate their 73rd consecutive victory (source: imocovolley.it)

    Let me start with Pool A, not because of the alphabetical order, but because it certainly is the most balanced and most unpredictable of the five. It would be of no surprise if anyone beats anyone in the pool as all four teams look quite even. I think Poland’s Developres SkyRes Rzeszow are a tad likelier than their opponents to take the first place in the final standings. If anything, they have not lost a single match in their national league this season. The same applies to Ukraine’s Prometey Dnipro, but that is not the reason why I pick them for pool runners-up. Having the honour of personally knowing many of the coaching staff members and the players, I know what they are capable of and my intuition leads me to believe that they will brush off their role of rookies and underdogs and will edge Russia’s Lokomotiv Kaliningrad Region and Germany’s Dresdner for the second place.

    There are two clear favourites in Pool B and I don’t think Italian newcomers Vero Volley Monza and Turkish giants VakifBank Istanbul will allow any upsets coming their way from France’s ASPTT Mulhouse or Finland’s LP Salo. While Vero Volley have attracted a few top-notch additions to their roster, VakifBank lost two of their best players, Maja Ognjenovic and Milena Rasic, and despite the replacements the team’s level this season will not be as high as last season. So in the race for the top of Pool B the Italian team is more likely to win.

    Without completely discounting Czech rookies Dukla Liberec, I expect a three-way race for the top two spots in Pool C. Italy’s Igor Gorgonzola Novara have been among the best performing teams in the Champions League in recent years and their selection this season seems to be no less powerful than before. This gives them an advantage for the first place in the pool. I find it very hard to tell who can do better between Turkey’s THY Istanbul and Russia’s Dinamo Moscow, so my pick for runners-up is based solely on intuition (and maybe a bit on how they are doing domestically this season), which tilts it THY’s way.

    Arina Fedorovtseva in Turkish league action for Fenerbahce (source: tvf.org.tr)

    When it comes to Pool D, there is no need to hide that I am biased here and I would love to be able to put my hometown girls of Maritza Plovdiv on top of the standings. And I know our young squad will leave their hearts on the court to earn a spot in the quarterfinals, but I also know that to predict them among the top two in the pool would be a bit far-fetched. Turkey’s Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul and Russia’s Dinamo-Ak Bars Kazan are the big names here and seem certain to claim the first two places. Both teams have very strong selections as usual, but with Russian child prodigy Arina Fedorovtseva having just moved from Kazan to Istanbul, I put my eggs in Fenerbahce’s basket.

    Pool E looks easiest to predict. When you have a team that has not lost even once in their last 73 matches over a period of almost two years, and are the reigning champions of… everything, it would be insane not to pick them as the 99% pool winners here. Everyone knows who I am talking about, but for the record, it’s Italy’s A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano. With all due respect for Hungary’s Fatum Nyiregyhaza and Serbia’s Ub, I think Poland’s Grupa Azoty Chemik Police are almost certain for the second place.

    To sum it up, my quarterfinalists are Developres, Vero Volley, Igor, Fenerbahce and Imoco as pool winners, and VakifBank, Chemik and Dinamo Kazan as the three best-ranked runners-up.

    What happens next will, of course, depend a lot on the draw, but unless they meet earlier in the bracket I think Imoco will defend their title by defeating Fenerbahce in the Super Final.

    #CLVolleyW