EuroLeague preview: Georgios Bartzokas welcomes old club to the Palau Blaugrana

Barcelona coach Georgios Bartzokas has said that his players must treat Thursday’s EuroLeague game against his old club Olympiacos like a championship game as they continue their rise up the standings.

The Catalan side are currently 7-9 but heading into Thursday’s game on the back of three straight home wins. However, their opponents are one of the EuroLeague’s in-form teams, with seven wins in their last eight, good enough for an impressive 11-5 record. But the Reds will be without Vassilis Spanoulis, who is out with a groin problem, but will be back next week.

No-one knows the Piraeus outfit like Bartzokas though. he guided the team to the EuroLeague title in 2013 and with a near full-strength squad at his disposal, he is confident ahead of the vital clash.

“This game is a final for us,” the playcaller says. “The players know that every EuroLeague game is like a final. We had to play some of these in a short time but it also happens on other teams. We must show our spirit on the court if we want to win this one. Barcelona has to be in the playoffs.”

∞∞∞ BATTLE OF TWO IN-FORM TEAMS IN SERBIA ∞∞∞

Crvena Zvezda will aim to go above .500 when they host Fenerbahce in Belgrade on Thursday night. But the Turkish team arrive in the Serbian capital in decent form themselves.

Red Star, currently holders of the meanest defence in the EuroLeague, conceding just 73.6 points a game have won their last three games with Fenerbahce looking for its third win in their last four.

“New game against Fenerbahce, a great team led by the most sucesful coach in the history of the EuroLeague,” said Crvena Zvezda coach Dejan Radonjic.

“They upgraded a roster that played the final last season and won all other competitions. They are the strong favourites in this next game, but we must play our top-level basketball if we want a chance to be competitive against them.”

∞∞∞ BASKONIA AIM TO CONTINUE SWEEP OF ISTANBUL SIDES ∞∞∞

Third placed Baskonia has enjoyed its games against the EuroLeague’s Istanbul contigent this season, winning against all four Turkish sides in the first half of the campaign.

Last season’s Final Four participants travel to Istanbul to face Darussafaka Dogus on Thursday night with the Spaniards 73-52 home win against Darussafaka behind 14 points from Shane Larkin still fresh in the memory bank.

Baskonia limited Darussafaka to a EuroLeague season-low 28.9 percent two-point shooting percentage and to a EuroLeague club-low in points but perhaps the most telling statistic from the two side’s last encounter was the rebounding, where the Vitoria-based side out-rebounded their counterparts 53-32.

∞∞∞ HAT-TRICK OF RETURNEES TO KAZAN ∞∞∞

Nikos Zisis, Vladimir Veremeenko and head coach Andrea Trinchieri will return to Kazan on Thursday with Brose Bamberg as they face Unics in the early game.

The three helped Unics reach the EuroCup final in 2014 only to lose to Valencia but they arrive back in Russia on the back of three consecutive wins – a fourth would tie its own EuroLeague record.

Trincheri is focussing on one player during his return to Kazan, that being the league’s leading scorer Keith Langford, who is averaging 23.8 points a game.

“We are going to play against one of the best or the best guards of the entire EuroLeague, Keith Langford, he is showing an unbelievable season,” states the Bamberg coach.

“He’s a nightmare, he’s unstoppable. He found his poise, he’s experienced now. But if we make the mistake to stop him no matter what, the rest of the team will be there. They have a very deep roster, with talents. They have a lot of weapons to hurt us.”

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