Wednesday marks the last leg of CEV Champions League men’s group stage matches. Although all five current pool leaders have secured advancement regardless of what happens in Wednesday’s matches, three quarterfinal spots remain in play.
Polish league contenders Jastrzebski Wegiel and Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Cucine Lube Civitanova and Sir Sicoma Monini Perugia of Italy’s Serie A1, and Russia’s Fakel Novy Urengoy have already guaranteed their spots in the quarters, and all but Fakel have also secured a first-place finish in their respectively pools.
Jastrzebski Wegiel finishes out the group stage with a match versus VC Greenyard Maaseik. Maaseik, which with its 3-2 record must have a win in this meeting to have any hope of advancing. However even a straight-set win wouldn’t guarantee the Belgian team a quarters spot, as only the top-three second-place finishers advance.
Zenit Kazan needs the pool leader Jastrzebski to take care of business against Maaseik and it needs to defeat Wednesday-night opponent Halkbank Ankara of the Turkish league — otherwise, Kazan would fail to qualify for the Champions League quarters for the first time in club history. Even if both matches fall Kazan’s way, the Russian team has to await its fate depending on the outcome of the other pools.
Undefeated Lube has already locked down first-place in Pool A but second place will be determined in a head-to-head matchup between Trentino and Jihostroj Ceske Budejovice. Even with a win, the underdog Czech team wouldn’t be sure of a chance to advance. Trentino, which features Team USA outside Aaron Russell, on the other hand, would have a good chance of moving on with a win, and could guarantee it with a straight-set victory.
Pool B leader Fakel Novy Urengoy, professional home of USA libero Erik Shoji, boasts a 4-1 record, but even with a loss to fourth-place ACH Volley Ljubljana on Wednesday, the Russian team would advance. Poolmate and fellow Russian league team Kuzbass Kemerovo, currently in second with a 3-2 record, however, needs a win over the Berlin Recycling Volleys to guarantee advancement. Berlin has a 2-3 record and no chance of advancing, but with five Americans on the roster, this is a match that would be fun to tune in to.
Pool D’s Verva Warszawa Orlen Pallwa and Tours VB have identical 2-3 records and six points, and both desperately need wins Wednesday. Verva has to take on undefeated Perugia, while Tours, which features American Price Jarmon on its roster, has fourth-place Benfica Lisboa on deck.
The fate of Knack Roeselare is not entirely in its own hands. Although the Belgian team with a 3-2 record in Pool E needs a win over Vojvodina NS Seme Novi Sad on Wednesday, it also needs favorable outcomes in other pools to be granted a spot in the quarters. American Joe Norman competes for Knack Roeselare.
Current third-place contender in Pool E, VfB Friedrichshafen still has a slim chance of securing a quarterfinals spot, but it would require many specific outcomes in other pools, as well as a victory on Wednesday over undefeated pool leader Zaksa, which has not even dropped a set in Champions League competition this season. Recent American college grads Joe Worsley and Brendan Schmidt will do their best to lead Friedrichshafen to that unlikely victory.