Lausanne, Switzerland, March 16, 2017 - Defending champions Zenit Kazan of Russia and the two Italian sides in the competition enjoyed a dream week as the Playoffs of the men's European Champions League opened in the race for the ultimate continental club title and a direct ticket to the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship.
Zenit extended their winning streak in the Champions League to 10-0, carrying over from last season, with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-18) sweep in Belgium of Knack Roeselare. Eighteen points from Wilfredo Leon and another 15 from Maxim Mikhailov brought the game home as Zenit controlled their reception and dominated the attacking and the serving.
Zenit haven't lost a European Champions League match since last year to the day, when they fell at home on 16 March 2016 to Poland's PGE Skra Belchatow in five sets after leading 2-0 - though even then they turned the tie around with a straight-win in the second leg in Poland to advance to the Final Four.
Meanwhile, France's Earvin Ngapeth was scoring 26 points in Poland to lead Italian champions Azimut Modena in a 3-2 (23-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-19, 15-12) win before 4,123 fans over Asseco Resovia Rzeszow. Resovia reacted with 22 points from Serbia's Marko Ivovic, but the Italian side generally dominated play on the net.
And last year's bronze medallists Cucine Lube Civitanova thundered through the Atlas Arena in Lodz with a 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 25-21) win over PGE Skra Belchatow and silencing the 8,100 Polish fans. Lube were highly efficient in attacking and Bulgaria's Tsvetan Sokolov scored 27 points for Lube (with 25 kills in 37 swings for 68%) to make the difference and counter Maruisz Wlazly's 23 points for the Poles.
Poland is now in danger of not having any teams in the Playoffs 'Round of 6' after their third representative, Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle lost in Russia to Belogorie Belgorod 3-1 (13-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-20) before some 4,200 fans. Dmitriy Muserskiy scored 23 points as Belgorie overcame the strong Polish block. Sam Deroo of Belgium countered that with 21 points for Kedzierzyn-Kozle, but Belgorie outplayed their opponents in both attacking and receiving.
The winners of the Champions League will join South American champions Sada Cruzeiro Contagem and Asian champions Sarmayeh Bank Tehran in the FIVB Club World Championship, from December 11 to 17 in Poland. A further ticket will go to the champions of Poland's PlusLiga. Further berths will be filled by the winners of the club leagues of the top two countries in the FIVB rankings in addition to two wild cards to be awarded.
Elsewhere in the Champions League this week Istanbul BBSK edged Berlin Recycling Volleys at home in five sets and Dinamo Moscow rounded up the action on Thursday evening with a sraight-set win in Turkey over Arkas Izmir.
The return legs of the 'Round of 12' are next week, ahead of the Final Four in Rome, 29-30 April, hosted by Sir Sicoma Colussi Perugia, who have already qualified.
See all the results, statistics and photos of this week's Champions League action on the European Volleyball Confederation website.
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