Club Volleyball

    Movement of players that could shift the balance of power in the Champions League

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    Article Fri, Nov 19 2021
    Author: Constantine Dimaras
    Constantine Dimaras
    Benjamin Toniutti sets the ball for Kedzeirzyn-Kozle's David Smith in the 2021 Champions League SuperFinal - but this season he'll be distributing the play for Jastrzebski Wegiel.

    There's been a fair movement of players around within the men's Champions League teams during the off season, with some remarkable transfers that could well change the balance of power as we head into this season's thrilling edition.

    It remains to be seen whether these transfers will have an impact on the final outcome and the performance of the stars' new teams - but here's a (subjective) list of five player movements that could make a difference when the pool phase of the competition gets underway in about two weeks' time:

    Two key movements involve setters, who will be responsible for distributing play within their new sides.

    Newly crowned Olympic champion France setter Benjamin Toniutti was instrumental in leading Grupa Azoty Kedzierzyn-Kozle to a historic Champions League title last season, when they beat Trentino Itas in the SuperFinal to become the first Polish club in more than a quarter of a century to reach the top of Europe.

    But this season the 32-year-old has moved to PlusLiga rivals Jastrzebski Wegiel who are up against Bulgaria's Hebar Pazardzhik, Belgium's Knack Roeselare and Germany's VfB Friedrichshfan in Pool A of this season's Main Phase of the Champions League.

    Can the departure shake the reigning European champions (who are in Pool C alongside Italy's Cucine Lube Civitanova, Russia's Lokomotiv Novosibirsk and Slovenia's Merkur Maribor) and create waves in the world's top continental club competition?

    Well, it hasn't made the slightest difference so far in Poland's domestic PlusLiga where Kedzierzyn-Kozle shut out Jastrzebski 3-0 (28-26, 25-22, 25-22) earlier this month and currently enjoy a winning streak of eight matches in as many games - the only undefeated team in Poland so far.

    Simone Giannelli sets the ball for Trentino in the 2021 Champions League SuperFinal, but will now lead Perugia's bid for the 2022 title.

    The other high-profile transfer of the summer was Italy setter Simone Giannelli switching sides within the Italian League.

    After missing out on the European club championship title with Trentino, the 2021 European champion with his National Team, joined Sir Sicoma Monini Perugia, who are this year in Pool E of the Champions League together with France's AS Cannes Dragons, Turkey's Fenerbahce HDI Istanbul and Trentino - guaranteeing two European matches where the 25-year-old will go up against his former team.

    The two sides already met in the Italian League, earlier this month, and Perugia (the only unbeaten side in the league with five wins in as many matches) thrashed Trentino 3-0 (25-12, 25-21, 25-18) - but will it be the same in the Champions League?

    Ricardo Lucarelli hits the ball for Trentino past the block of Benjamin Toniutti in the SuperFinal of the 2021 Champions League. The Brazilian leads Lube this season as they try to reclaim the continental title.

    But Trentino lost another key player this summer, when Brazil's Ricardo Lucarelli moved to Cucine Lube Civitanova.

    The 29-year-old was Lube's best scorer in their match against Trentino in the Italian league last month, but that wasn't enough to avoid a 3-1 (25-16, 21-25, 25-11, 26-24) defeat to Trentino.

    Outside of the Polish and Italian Champions League superpowers, Germany's Berlin Recycling Volleys have seen a fair amount of incoming talent this summer - not least in USA's Jeff Jendryk who transferred over from Poland's Asseco Resovia Rzeszow.

    The 26-year-old middle blocker played a vital role in Berlin's 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-18) in the German Bundesliga over their arch-rivals VfB Friedrichshafen - but can the American make a difference when they come up against Portugal's Benfica Lisbon, Serbia's Vojvodina Novi Sad and Russia's Zenit Saint Petersburg in Pool D of the Champions League?

    Finally, Canada's John Gordon Perrin joined Lokomotiv Novosibirsk from Russia Superleague rivals Ural Ufa and has been instrumental so far in securing the Siberian side a so far unbeaten run domestically.

    But is the 32-year-old capable of leading Lokomotiv to something spectacular in the 'pool of death' in the Champions League?

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