Italian teams ready to write history in the #CLVolleyM


Article Mon, Feb 26 2024
Author: Adrian Costeiu

And then there were four. From the eight teams starting in the quarter-finals, only four of them will progress to the semi-finals and extend their chances for the coveted CEV Champions League 2024 Men trophy. The names will be known after four fiery clashes, as the second leg of this season’s quarter-finals will take place on Wednesday and Thursday in the European premium competition.

A do-or-die clash pits together Jastrzębski Węgiel, last year’s runners-up and semi-finalists two seasons ago, and Gas Sales Daiko Piacenza, who can become the first rookies in the last decade to secure a semi-finals spot.

A see-saw match in the first leg saw Piacenza take a 3:2 lead, but Jastrzębski Węgiel,, the only Polish side still in contention for the trophy, one of the most consistent teams in the previous seasons, are still in with a chance, especially after dropping a single set on their home court so far in this season.

However, Jastrzębski Węgiel will aim to get more from their top scorer, star Tomasz Fornal, who had only 11 points in the first leg, yet they can secure their fifth semi-finals berth with a 3:0 or a 3:1 win, provided they dominate a team who has yet to lose an away match so far this season, with Piacenza taking wins against Benfica, Halkbank Ankara and Berlin Recycling Volleys so far in this season.

On the other hand, Piacenza can help Italy make it three out of three for the semi-finals, which would be the first time in the history of the CEV Champions League Men when a country sends three teams between the best four in the European premium competition.

Piacenza could be joined by Cucine Lube Civitanova, who have a strong hand to play in the second leg against Halkbank Ankara, after sealing the first match, 3:1, in the Turkish capital, after an excellent game from Marlon Yant Herrera and Aleksandar Nikolov, who both scored 17 points.

Civitanova are the team with the lowest number of sets conceded so far in this season – four – and would be back in the semi-finals of the CEV Champions League Men for the first time in five years, stopping a three-year run of eliminations in the quarter-finals.

On the other hand, with Nimir Abdel-Aziz and Earvin Ngapeth in their roster, Halkbank Ankara could never be counted out, as they turned the match on its head in the previous round against Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn-Koźle, after conceding a 2:3 loss in the first leg. On the other hand, Cucine Lube Civitanova have lost only one of their past seven matches at home, riding a six-match winning streak.

The two teams will find themselves in more or less the same situation like in the previous season, when Halkbank took a 3:1 win in the first leg, Lube bounced back with a 3:1 win of their own at home, but eventually conceded the golden set, 12:15, with miracles still possible.

The only team with seven wins in a row so far in the competition, Ziraat Bank Ankara, will be aiming to make it eight out of eight, as they are preparing for their maiden semi-finals berth, after a 3:1 win over Guaguas Las Palmas in the first leg.

The Turkish side will face a team which has lost three of their four matches on away courts this season, with Las Palmas needing a clear win to have a chance to play the golden set, with their season on the card. 

Nevertheless, Ziraat Bank have lost four sets so far on their home court, with an opening being able to be exploited by Las Palmas, which were fantastic at times in the first leg.

The semi-finals line-up will be completed on Thursday, after the match between Trentino Itas and Berlin Recycling Volleys, the only tie to finish in straight sets in the first leg. The Italian side will aim to make it to the semi-finals for the third time in the last four seasons, with a return to this phase of the competition after a one-year hiatus on the cards after their 3:0 away win.

Trentino secured the clearest win in the first leg, as Berlin never sealed more than 18 points in a single set, but the Italian side are entering the match after a painful loss in the Italian league, 1:3, against Perugia, where their shortcomings have been on display.

Nevertheless, Trentino are huge favourites in this tie, especially from a morale standpoint, after having eliminated Berlin twice in this phase of the competition, in the 2020/21 and the 2021/22 seasons, when they went to play in the Super Finals, only to lose both clashes against Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn-Koźle.