CSKA Moscow will no doubt have their unbeaten credentials tested on Friday when they travel to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce in the Euroleague Top 16.
The early game will begin Group F and it will also see Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic go up against his former assistant at Panathinaikos and current CSKA Moscow playcaller, Dimitris Itoudis.
The two coaches worked together for 13 years and won five continental titles as a pair, but there was no talk about their history in the build up to this game.
“We are facing an opponent, which is strong at every position and plays good basketball; they have experienced players and just added another point guard, Nikos Zisis, a player whom I respect a lot,” Itoudis said. “They have one of the greatest coaches in the world, Zeljko; they have continuation of their philosophy, stability in the second year of Coach Obradovic.
“This team plays very good at home in front of their fans, so we expect a big fight. We are ready and healthy, and we go to Istanbul to compete. We have long group stage of 14 games ahead of us and we are looking forward to it.”
Regardless of your record in the regular season though, all teams start with 0-0 records, so to coach Obradovic, this is just another game.
“The first game in the Top 16 is against, until now, the best team in Europe,” Obradovic said. “This is something that must give us extra motivation to play on our court in front of our fans.”
EA7 Milano began their rise to a near Final Four spot at this stage last season. They begin their Top 16 campaign at home to Nizhny Novgorod in Group F.
This will be a first ever meeting between the two teams and the visitors look likely to welcome back leading scorer Taylor Rochestie [20.0ppg] into their line up.
“We want to be competitive because our goal in this competition is to get close to the top, like we did last year,” Milano’s Alessandro Gentile said. “Every game is crucial, we need to stay focused against Novgorod and hopefully our crowd will give us a special push to get the win.”
In Group E, Red Star Belgrade host Real Madrid in the Serbian capital with 20,000 already expected, as the game at the Kombank Arena were sold out in under two hours.
Red Star are 4-1 on their home court and facing a Real Madrid side struggling to find form, even though they have been grinding out results. Red Star coach Dejan Radonjic sees this game as a valuable experience lesson for his young side.
The game against them, along with the rest of the games in the Top 16, would be a great learning opportunity for us,” he said. “It is a chance for us to gain the necessary experience as a team, which is by far the youngest in the Euroleague.
“We know that miracles do not happen often, but we need to believe in them if we want to beat Real Madrid.”
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