Pau Gasol FC Barcelona
Photo: Twitter/Barca Basket

The summer arrivals of coach Sarunas Jasikevicius and pass master Nick Calathes served to further enhance an already glittering array of talent at FC Barcelona, ensuring that the Spanish powerhouse entered the new campaign with plenty of optimism.

And those early positive feelings were duly justified with a commanding opening night 76-66 home win over reigning champion CSKA Moscow.

However, just in case anyone thought the task ahead would be easy, Barca was then handed a stern reminder of the ultra-competitive nature of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with a defeat to Zenit St Petersburg and former coach Xavi Pascual in Round 2.

With that lesson duly learned, Barcelona then flexed its muscles by embarking on an impressive seven-game winning run, firmly establishing itself as one of the top teams in the competition.

But then came a bump in the road with losses to ASVEL Villeurbanne and Olympiacos, soon followed by a worrying end to 2020 with three straight losses to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Anadolu Efes and Bayern Munich.

Those defeats left Barca in fourth place with an 11-6 record at the dawn of the New Year, placing Jasikevicius under pressure for the first time in his short tenure.

A response was required, and it came in emphatic fashion as the Catalan club roared back into top form with six consecutive victories.

Home defeats to Efes and ASVEL in February threatened to jeopardize Barca’s place in the top four, but Jasikevicius’s men were in no mood to lose their place near the top of the standings and again rose to the challenge with a powerful run of five straight wins.

Victory at Fenerbahce in Round 33 allowed the “Blaugrana” to secure a first-place finish with a week to spare, and the final game of the regular season – a harmless loss to Bayern – was notable for the return to action of local hero Pau Gasol, who has headed home to rejoin his first club with the aim of securing the only major trophy so far to elude him: the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.