CEV Women’s Champions League 2015/2016 season ends this weekend in Montichiari, Italy, and once again the Turkish teams, with the highest budgets in the world, appear as favourites – last year Eczacibasi won, beating VakifBank in the semis and Italy’s Busto Arsizio in the final.
Another Turkish club is guaranteed to be in the final this Sunday, since two of them clash on Saturday in on of the semi-finals. The other spot in the gold medal match will be decided in a face-off between local squad Casalmaggiore and Russia’s Dinamo Kazan. Some of the biggest world stars will be in action this weekend at the Champions League.
Fenerbahce is led by the best player in the world, London 2012 Olympics MVP Korea’s Kim Yeon-Koung, an all-around player that brings stability from her wing spiker role. Their roster, beside some talented Turkish players, also has Serbia’s wing spiker Brankica Mihajlovic, USA’s world champion middle blocker Christa Harmotto, and Italian wing spiker Lucia Bosetti.
VakifBank also has a star-studded team, led by Dutch hammer Lonneke Sloetjes, a young opposite who turned twice-Olympic champion Brazil’s Sheilla Castro into a backup starter. In the center, VakifBank relies on Serbia’s Milena Rasic, probably the best middle blocker this season, and Netherland’s Robin de Kruijf. Added to this power are USA’s wing spiker Kim Hill (MVP at 2014 World Championship) and Turkey’s talented setter Naz Aydemir and left side Gozde Sonsirma.
Dinamo Kazan is the favourite in the other semi-final, although they will have a tough task playing in front of the Italian crowd. The Russian team counts iconic opposite Ekaterina Gamova, who led her country to two world titles in 2006 and 2010, on their roster, as well as wing spikers Bulgarian Elitsa Vasileva and Italian Antonella del Core.
The local team, Casalmaggiore, has plenty of foreign talents, which will demand special attention from their opponents including Serbian middle blocker Jovana Stevanovic and German bomber opposite Greta Kozuch.
Turkish derby – the final that couldn’t be?
The favourites are definitely two powerhouses from Turkey, who will meet in the semi-final. Due to CEV regulations that two teams from the same country can’t play in the final (this rule is to be removed for the upcoming Champions League season -ad.), VakifBank and Fenerbahce will face each other on the way there. The result of that match is hard to predict – Fenerbahce is leading in the Turkish League, but VakifBank is building its form in the run-up to this weekend. The winner of this match will be a heavy favourite in the final, played most likely against Russian Dinamo Kazan. Despite the support of the home crowd, inexprienced Pomi Casalmaggiore will likely need to deliver more to defeat Russian giant.
You can find all matches, to be broadcasted live, on laola1.tv.