EuroLeague preview: Third time a charm for Fenerbahce? Barcelona make long trek to Russia

After reaching their first Final Four in 2015 then falling agonisingly short in the championship game against CSKA Moscow last season, Fenerbahce will look to make it a hat-trick of Final Four appearances this term when they begin their EuroLeague campaign at home to Brose Baskets on Friday night.

Naturally though, the Final Four is a long term goal for the Turkish giants as the new league format this season makes life that much harder. Fenerbahce will also be looking to bounce back from a shock loss in the domestic league to Usak Sportif last week as well as defend a 21-home game winning streak.

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Fenerbahce began their domestic league season with a shocking defeat to Usak Sportif. Photo: TBL

But facing Brose Baskets is somewhat of a rarity these days. This will only be their third contest ever and their first meeting in over eight years. It is also a first ever battle of coaching wits between Fenerbahce’s Zeljko Obradovic and Bamberg’s Andrea Trinchieri.

You could argue that Brose Baskets will travel to the Asian part of Istanbul with nothing to lose. Betting firms Bwin and Betfair both have the German side as 9/2 outsiders to claim an opening day victory but odds are not always accurate.

Currently 5-0 in the easycredit BBL and looking set to duel with Bayern Munich for honours in Germany, Bamberg have momentum on their side for Friday’s clash. The latest win came over Goettingen, but they were made to work hard for their 92-83 success.

The action in Istanbul starts at 19:30 CET.

∞∞∞ MEANWHILE NEARLY 2,000 MILES AWAY FROM TURKEY IN KAZAN ∞∞∞

Barcelona have made the five hour, 35 minute flight to Russia to start their EuroLeague season on Friday against Unics Kazan.

This game also marks Georgios Bartzokas’ first game as Barcelona coach in the EuroLeague as he aims to build on their already impressive start in the Liga Endesa to the continental competition.

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All smiles at the Unics Kazan media day. But they are looking to overturn a five-game losing streak against Barcelona. Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Kazan though will be no slouches. They boast the 2014 Alphonso Ford Scoring champion in Keith Langford, veteran Kostas Kaimakaglou and the big Belorussian Artsiom Parakhouski on a talented roster that will look to be up towards the Playoffs at the end of the regular season.

But, the Russians will look to improve their record against their Catalan counterparts. In five games played, Unics are 0-5, with two of those losses coming at Basket Hall.

∞∞∞ OTHER FRIDAY NIGHT CLASHES ∞∞∞

Panathinaikos begin their EuroLeague season at home to Zalgiris on Friday but will have to play on without the services of talented American Mike James for two months due to injury.

But despite the loss of James, history is certainly on the Athens giants’ side. They haven’t lost to the Lithuanian champions at home in eight games and hold an overall 14-2 record since the EuroLeague began in 2000.

Legendary Zalgiris coach Sarunas Jasikevicius has added Augusto Lima, Kevin Pangos, Leo Westermann and Antanas Kavaliauskas to the line-up but the core have remained with the Kaunas outfit, most notably Robertas Javtokas and popular guard Renaldas Seibutis so there is definitely hope for Zalgiris ahead of Friday’s trip to the Greek capital.

And staying away from named sponsors for the first time since 1987, Baskonia host Anadolu Efes to bring a close to the first round of action in the new look EuroLeague.

The game marks an early return to Vitoria for Anadolu Efes coach Velimir Perasovic, who joined the Istanbul outfit in the off-season. He led Baskonia, then Laboral Kutxa to last season’s Final Four in Berlin.