(by Steve Hopkins)
Dimitrij Ovtcharov has been the dominant player on the Russian team Fakel Gazprom Orenburg. Gazprom has been one of the best teams in Europe for years, not just winning the Russian League but also finishing in the top four in the European Champions League (and winning their sixth league title in 2019). Last year, the team fell short in the Champions League Final, bringing a team that included Ovtcharov, Freitas, and Samsonov and falling to Saarbrucken. They were supposed to have Lin Yun-Ju available a year ago, but COVID affected the availability of Lin.
This week, Gazprom had a press conference to announce the addition of Calderano and Lin. Gazprom is reloading – and their top three will include not just Dimitrij Ovtcharov (World No. 8) but also Lin Yun-Ju (World No. 6), and Hugo Calderano (World No. 5). The Gazprom squad dominated the Russian League a year ago, so you can expect to see them dominant again. But a year ago, when they competed in the Champions League against the other great European Teams, they fell short. Clearly this squad is intended to match up well against Borussia Dusseldorf (with Boll at No. 10, Karlsson at No. 28, and Kallberg at No. 51). Dusseldorf, incidentally, is off to a great start – undefeated in the German Bundesliga.
There should be some great battles to watch as this year progresses with the Champions League Final Four set for December.
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