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Defending champions Lube and Verona are involved in the one of the four quarterfinal series

After more than five months of action and 132 regular season matches, the SuperLega Credem Banca enters its decisive stage this weekend, with the first round of the playoffs beginning and only the eight top teams in the country remaining in contention for the Italian title.

The best-of-three quarterfinal round will have all four first-leg matches this weekend, with the second-leg duels all being played on Wednesday and, if needed, the third leg taking place on March 26.

· Watch all SuperLega Credem Banca matches live or on demand on VBTV.

Sir Safety Susa Perugia, the best team in the Italian League regular season, and Allianz Milano, who were the last to secure their spot in the playoffs, ending the preliminary phase in eighth place, will be the first to get on the court as they meet in Perugia, on Saturday, at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC).

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Cuban opposite Jesus Herrera has been a consistent scorer for Perugia

After winning all their 22 regular season matches and becoming the first team to do it in over 40 years in the Italian League, Perugia will try to maintain their rhythm in the postseason. The reigning world champions had a big five-set victory over Germany’s Berlin Recycling Volleys in the CEV Champions League on Wednesday and now turn their attention back to the SuperLega as they try to claim their first national title since 2018.

“It’s the biggest moment of the season now and we have to focus on us and our game,” said middle blocker Roberto Russo, a 2022 world champion with the Italian national team. “From now on, every team we face will push us hard. Milano are a very technical team and have some really good players, but we need to think about ourselves, because if we play well, we can put anyone in trouble. We want to start the playoffs on the right foot.”

Milano have lost their six most recent matches against Perugia, including the two duels in this year’s regular season, but they still believe they could cause an upset after claiming the final spot in the playoffs.

“We got into a good rhythm ahead of the playoffs, but Perugia will be a tough opponent,” star outside hitter Yuki Ishikawa reflected. “It’s going to be a very difficult series, but we have our chances.”

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Monza will try to upset Trentino on their Sunday encounter

Second-placed Itas Trentino will feature in one of the three Sunday matches scheduled for 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC), facing seventh-placed Vero Volley Monza.

Trentino are also coming from a busy week as they decided their Champions League fate on Thursday, when they fell to defending champions Grupa Azoty ‘Zaksa’ Kędzierzyn-Koźle of Poland in a golden set in front of their home fans. The team had a short period of time to regroup, but will certainly be ready for the challenge.

For Monza, who will try to return to the semifinals after missing out last year, to win the series, they will need to beat Trentino for the first time since 2020 – their opponents came out on top in each of the last seven encounters, including two in the regular season, which they won 3-0.

Also on Sunday at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC), third-placed Valsa Group Modena will face sixth-placed Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza in what many believe to be the most unpredictable series in the quarterfinal round after Modena won three of the last five duels between the teams.

The opponents will enter the series in different situations as while Modena secured a dramatic victory over Poland’s PGE Skra Bełchatów on Wednesday to advance to the final of the CEV Volleyball Cup, Piacenza were eliminated from the same tournament after falling to Belgium’s Knack Roeselare.

“I think we grew a lot since the start of the regular season and we need to value the path and the sacrifices we made to finish in third place,” star setter Bruno Rezende commented. “The series against Piacenza will certainly be very complicated because they have a great team.”

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Piacenza expect opposite Yuri Romanó to play a big role in the series against Modena

Despite the frustration with their mid-week upset, Piacenza know that when they get hot, they can beat anyone, as they did a few weeks ago to claim the Coppa Italia title.

“We need to put this defeat behind us because we have a big match to play on Sunday,” said outside hitter Ricardo Lucarelli. “The SuperLega is the only tournament we have now and we need to put our entire energy into it.”

The fourth and last quarterfinal series will reunite three-time defending champions Cucine Lube Civitanova, who were fourth in the regular season, and WithU Verona, who finished in fifth place, also starting at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC).

Lube enter the Italian League playoffs just three days after seeing their run at the Champions League come to an end with a golden-set loss to Türkiye’s Halkbank Ankara.

“This team has shown the quality and the confidence to deal with bad results and to play well even in difficult situations,” head coach Gianlorenzo Blengini remarked. “Now we have to reset and focus on the SuperLega playoffs knowing that there will be intense challenges and that we’ll need all of our quality and resilience.”

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Lube's Aleksandar Nikolov is one of the several young players involved in their duel with Verona

The teams split wins in their two regular season encounters, with Verona winning their most recent duel, in January, in the tie-breaker.

“We’re confident we’re getting to the playoffs in our best form,” said setter Luca Spirito. “We’ll be playing an opponent we know very well. It’s going to be a battle and I believe the fans will have a big impact on it, so I expect to see a packed stadium when we come back home for the second leg.”