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28/04/2017 17:25
Coaches agree Zenit KAZAN are heavy favourites to seize CL crown
2017 CEV Volleyball Champions League - Men

Rome, Italy, April 28, 2017. The eyes of the Volleyball world turn to Rome as we are approaching the final stage of the 2017 CEV Volleyball Champions League – Men. A Volleyball feast of two very different semi-final games is coming up tomorrow with heavy favourites Zenit KAZAN matched up to play BERLIN Recycling Volleys at 16:30 and Sir Sicoma Colussi PERUGIA against Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA at 19:30.

Click here for a live picture gallery of the Final Four weekend

The Italian fans can be sure that that they are going to have one team in the final match the day after tomorrow, but coach Lorenzo Bernardi goes farther: “I said it before – an Italian team is going to win the gold medal in this Final Four. Both us and Cucine Lube have the capacity to do it.” To do so they will have to defeat the winner of tomorrow’s first semi-final BERLIN Recycling Volleys vs. Zenit KAZAN.

Zenit is picked as the obvious favourite here: “They have this important power,” said Bernardi, while underlining the strength of his own line-up: “I am fortunate to have some of the best players in the world.” Their first task is clear – to win the Italian derby against Lube. Lorenzo Bernardi knows the feeling of getting out there in front of your own fans on the Champions League finals but as incredible as the feeling is, the only motivation they should need is to impose their game on the court; “hot in the heart, cool in your head” – the coach said.

The excitement of the all-Italian game is building up on both sides and coaches agree that having the Final Four in Rome adds a very special flavour to the competition. “Not only for me,” – said Lube’s head coach Gianlorenzo Blengini. “For every Italian club, being in such important Final Four, in Italy, is the maximum, it’s fantastic. Emotionally, it’s as special as it gets.”

According to Blengini the intensive Italian season behind both teams should make no difference in the upcoming fight. Any of the top Italian teams – TRENTINO, MODENA, CIVITANOVA and PERUGIA were built to be successful in all of the competitions they enter this year – the national championship, cup and Champions League. It’s not just about the players that you sign at the beginning of the season or during the off-season, but the work you do with these players, to bring them together, develop the right chemistry and keep improving. Then you need to stay consistent, make sure that the level does not go down and at the same time, improve on the things that are not working.”

For both Italian teams, the perspective of meeting Zenit KAZAN in the final match is less important than the match at hand. ”We all know that the Russian clubs have been investing a lot of money in building their teams to be as competitive as possible, but for the time being I am only focused on the upcoming match against PERUGIA,” said Blengini.

The coach of the Russian team in question seems calm, if not stoic. “We make history in Volleyball. We are focused, aim to dominate and will do our best to win both here at the Final Four and in the Russian league,” said Vladimir Alekno. His team had their last match ten days ago and the players have been preparing without a sparring partner. Alekno is confident that his men are ready and looks forward to the start of the competition in Rome. “These Champions League finals are a great Volleyball party, with two Italian teams, the BR Volleys and Zenit. There will be a lot of fun in the arena.”

The first opponents of Zenit KAZAN present a very good defensive style of play which, paired with Zenit’s renowned attack power, should make for an interesting game. “BERLIN play very good Volleyball, they did well in the competition and deserve being here at the finals. We will enjoy this game,” Alekno added.

“At the beginning of the season none would have predicted we could make it to the Finals,” said the BR Volleys coach Roberto Serniotti, “especially since we were drawn in a very difficult pool. However, we started our journey in the best way with a home victory over Cucine Lube and we finished among the top teams in the League Round, so we had a good draw for the Playoffs. We played a couple of great matches against Dinamo MOSCOW, so at the end of the day I think that we deserve to be here.”

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