Luxembourg, May 29, 2018. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic will be trying to secure a fourth straight victory in the pool stage of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Golden European League – Women when the competition resumes on Wednesday with six matches across three pools. Bulgaria play their first away match in Baku against Azerbaijan while the Czechs travel to Bratislava for a repeat of Saturday’s home game with Slovakia. In Pool B, Hungary, Croatia and Finland share the same win-loss record (2-1) and will be hoping to improve it as the race for a spot to compete at the Final Four in Budapest is slowly but surely reaching its climax.
Azerbaijan vs. Bulgaria
• Azerbaijan host Bulgaria in a match where much is at stake, including first place in Pool A.
• Last Saturday, Bulgaria beat Azerbaijan 3-1 at home in Sofia.
• This is Azerbaijan’s last home match in this year’s European League.
• The last time Bulgaria paid a visit to Azerbaijan was in 2017 for the Final Round of the European Championship. Bulgaria lost in the Playoffs to Germany (2-3) and finished the tournament in ninth place.
Famil Aghayev, assistant coach of Azerbaijan: “The battle for first place continues. We lost our away match and we are now focusing on Bulgaria again. This time, we play at home. It will be like final for us, because we are still fighting for first place in the pool. Therefore, we need to claim a victory in our last home match in the group.”
Shafagat Alishanova (Habibova), setter of Azerbaijan: “We will play against Bulgaria with brave hearts. Our team needs a lot of support from the fans. We expect we will show our best Volleyball and fight for each ball. Our goal is not easy, and Bulgaria is a high-level team, but we will be trying our best to win.”
Ivan Petkov, coach of Bulgaria: “We play with Azerbaijan again. They are a good team and it will be a difficult match for sure. However, I believe in my players and hope to claim a fourth victory in a row. It will be an extremely important match and we will do everything to win it.”
Ukraine vs. Portugal
• Ukraine are the gold medal winners from the 2017 edition of the European League where they beat Finland in the finals.
• After losing to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, Ukraine claimed their first victory in Pool A when beating Portugal last Saturday in Povoa de Varzim.
• Portugal are yet to win a match but they took one set from their away match with Azerbaijan in Baku.
Finland vs. Croatia
• Hungary, Croatia and Finland share the same win-loss record (2-1) and number of points (six) after completion of three rounds in Pool B.
• Earlier this month, Croatia beat Finland 3-0 in Split.
• Croatia lead the way in the head-to-heads (8-2).
• This is the fifth time that the women’s national team of Finland plays in Turku.
• Piia Korhonen is the second best scorer in the European League this far on 53 points, one behind Ukraine’s Anastasiia Kraiduba.
Tapio Kangasniemi, coach of Finland: “Croatia is a good team. They have attacked really well in all of their games so far. We are now looking at ways to prevent this from happening. Our last two games at home have been great both on and off the court. We have had great support from our fans and my players have played at a high level. Things have been working nicely for us. Naturally it is nice to win, but even more I like the way the quality of our game has progressed.”
France vs. Hungary
• Amandine Giardino sprained her ankle in the match with Croatia and she will therefore be missing the home fixture with Hungary.
• France lost 0-3 to Hungary in the first leg back on May 20 and the hosts are still to win a game in this year’s European League.
• Alexandra Dascalu, Léa Soldner, Chloé Mayer, Elsa Descamps, Safiatou Zongo and Héléna Cazaute replace Marie Salbot, Schérine Dahoue, Lisa Jeanpierre, Amandha Sylves, Eva Elouga and Amandine Giardino.
Elsa Descamps, player of France: “It has been three years since I played for the national team for the last time, and it is really nice to be back. This group is full of young players whose objective is to improve and give their best. I hope we can win some matches at home, in Nancy.”
Emmanuel Fouchet, Team Manager of France: “Even though we lost harshly 0-3 with tough scores against Hungary ten days ago, we felt that the first and third sets were better. We are hoping to push Hungary more this time. They had a surprising result against Finland on Saturday but we are aware that, hosting the Final Four, they can afford to go for some turnover. Our team is growing more and more determined to get some results at home, where we are happy to be playing.”
Spain vs. Belarus
• Last year the Pabellón Huerta del Rey in Valladolid hosted one leg of the European League. Spain won all of those matches to progress to the semi-finals.
• Spain and Belarus clashed last Saturday with a great win from the Spaniards (3-1) in Minsk. It was the first victory over Belarus in history for the ‘Leonas del Voley’.
• This is the first of three matches for the Spanish national teams in Valladolid this week, which makes it the true capital of Spanish Volleyball.
• Paula Carpintero (outside hitter and only 19 years old) will be making her debut with the Spanish national team. She is the fifth player to make her first appearance in the national team in this edition of the Golden European League.
• Spain want to continue improving the level of their performance after celebrating a first win in Minsk.
Laura Naranjo, player of Spain: “We have an extra boost of motivation after our first win. We want achieve a great result at home, improve and celebrate new victories.”
Cristina Sanz, player of Spain: “After winning in Belarus we have more confidence and more morale for tomorrow’s match and we want to confirm our progress with more wins.”
Slovakia vs. Czech Republic
• On Saturday, the Czech Republic beat Slovakia 3-0 in Prague to claim their third straight victory in as many matches in Pool C.
• It is the 33rd time the Czech Republic play Slovakia – and the first time in 18 years such a match takes place in Bratislava.
• The Czechs have won 24 out of 32 matches with their neighbours this far.
Marco Fenoglio, coach of Slovakia: “We are working hard, but we do not have a lot of time, because we had only 15 days of preparation and I needed to know the girls, so it is not easy. We are trying to do our best, but we have many problems especially in reception and if you do not have a good side-out, it is difficult to play. We try to look for what is best for the future and we are doing this with a young team. We need time. I hope that we will play 100 percent at home against the Czech Republic and to do so, we need to be better in reception.”
Barbora Purchartová, captain of Czech Republic: “I am sure that the Slovakian team will try to play better at home than they did in Prague. We must concentrate on our own game and serve strong.”