The 2012 and 2013 Euroleague champions Olympiacos look to reach the midway point of the regular season undefeated when they host Galatasaray tonight [Thursday].
The Greek side are 4-0 in Group D and seem to play with more freedom under new coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos, who became Giorgios Bartzokas’ full-time replacement last week. Sfairopoulos though doesn’t want his players to focus too much on standings but more of what is in front of them on the night.
“Galatasaray is a team with a lot of experienced players from the top level,” Sfairopoulos said. “We have to be focused and play good defence for 40 minutes, not less. We don’t have in our minds that we have a 4-0 record till now. We are playing against a very good team and we have to give our best.”
Galatasaray have had a mixed beginning to their third straight Euroleague campaign. They currently sit 2-2 – with both their losses coming away from Istanbul. It is a well known fact not just in basketball but in sports that Turkish teams are not usually great travellers but big man Furkan Aldemir, who is averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds in the last four games know that his side have the experience to get the job done.
“We know what to expect,” he says. “I believe as a team we are experienced enough to play these high-level games. We should play smart and focus on our game.”
While Olympiacos will again be without Georgios Printezis and Matthew Lojeski with injuries, Galatasaray will be without guard Martynas Pocius, who injured his back last week. He is expected to be out for a week.
Another interesting clash in Group D tonight sees Neptunas play Valencia in the group’s basement battle in Klaipeda.
The Lithuanian side have found their maiden Euroleague season a tough one. The group have relied more on their heart and love of the game more than their experience, which in this competition they lack a lot of.
Neptunas’ Svyturio Arena though has been proven in the two games its seen action that it is a tough place to visit and get a result. Olympiacos did two weeks ago, but were pushed to their limits in doing so.
Despite home court advantage, the Lithuanian new boys are aware that last season’s Eurocup winners Valencia are favourites, even though both teams hold 1-3 record and the Liga Endesa side are ranked last in the Euroleague in scoring, with an average of 68.5 points a game.
“Valencia is the reigning Eurocup champ and their roster is excellent,” Neptunas coach Kazys Maksvytis said. “They made a few changes, but they remain a very competitive team. They are a team that likes to run a lot and even takes three-pointers in fast-breaks. I believe that Valencia is the favourite in this game, but we will give it our best shot. We must play really well if we want to win.”
“Valencia is the favorite to win this game,” echoed Martynas Mazeika. “They have many weapons and they are also fast to run the fastbreak. We have to play better in defence, which is always one of the keys to win the game. We hope that our fans will be there to support us once again.”
Valencia forward Serhiy Lishchuk returned to action last weekend and is expected to make his Euroleague return in Klaipeda.
Tonight’s games will see many intriguing battles as the season and the standing gain more shape. Friday’s action is highlighted by a clash of two Euroleague giants in Group C.
Barcelona and Panathinaikos have played a total of 616 Euroleague games. Friday’s game will see the Greek side and 2011 Euroleague winners play their 300th game in the competition.
Panathinaikos coach Dusko Ivanovic, who led Barcelona to the 2006 Final Four believes that the Catalan side and Spanish league champions are favourites to reach the summit again in Madrid, next May.
“FC Barcelona is along with Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow the strongest team in the 2014-15 Turkish Airlines Euroleague,” he says. “They are one of the favourite teams to qualify for the Final Four. They are complete as a team. They have experience, good shooters, they are playing great in the transition and also the have great options in their offence. Of course we have chances to win and we must fight for them.”
Panathinaikos’ Julian Wright is listed as day-to-day for the game on Friday.
Unics Kazan vs Niznhy Novgorod
Unicaja Malaga vs Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv
Bayern Munich vs Fenerbahce
EA7 Milano vs PGE Turow
Neptunas Klaipeda vs Valencia
Laboral Kutxa vs Red Star
Olympiacos vs Galatasaray
Anadolu Efes vs Real Madrid
Dinamo Sassari vs Zalgiris
Cedevita Zagreb vs ALBA Berlin
Limoges vs CSKA Moscow
Barcelona vs Panathinaikos