EuroLeague preview: Fenerbahce host Panathinaikos in mouth-watering clash

EuroLeague
Kostas Sloukas refused to answer questions about the upcoming EuroLeague season with Fenerbahce. "Right now my priority is with my country and hoping we do well at Eurobasket. We have a good off-season with good signings but I will not talk much more about Fenerbahce until Eurobasket is over," he said. Photo: EuroLeague

Defeat to Crvena Zvezda last week dropped Fenerbahce further out of the top four and into sixth place. On Thursday, they host EuroLeague giants Panathinaikos who themselves are looking to break into the main half of the Playoff spaces.

Both sides currently own 10-7 records and will be eager to get a result at the Ulker Sports Arena, especially as a loss could see them fall further behind with Crvena Zvezda and Darussafaka Dogus, the two team directly below them in the table waiting to pounce on any mistake.

The last game between them was in December with Panathinaikos winning 81-70 thanks to 16 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds from point guard Nick Calathes. For Fener, James Nunnally had 21 points, but for this encounter, the Turkish side hopes to give a debut to former number NBA Draft pick Anthony Bennett.

Both teams like to base their game on slow tempo and strong defence, as neither scores more than 80 points on average, but both defences fare among the top five in the league. It is sure to be a physically enduring battle between two EuroLeague stables.

∞∞∞ CRVENA ZVEZDA IN TEL AVIV LOOKING TO MOVE UP ∞∞∞

With Red Star now in the top eight, they travel to Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv knowing that a win will put pressure on sixth placed Fenerbahce.

On the other side of the coin though, Maccabi, who won the EuroLeague in 2014 are in unfamiliar territory, currently languishing third from bottom on a 6-11 record and desperate for a result. And being on home court could play an advantage.

“Every game for us now is crucial, like a final” said Maccabi coach Ainars Bagaskis. “I’m telling our players to be patient for 40 minutes. Every shot, defensive execution is important.

“Our last game against Zvezda was our worst game, but that’s in the past and we don’t live in the past. The players know and I mentioned it two weeks ago when looking at the schedule – on this date, against them, we must show that was an accident.”

The “accident” being Red Star’s convincing 83-58 success in Belgrade last month, where Maccabi simply failed to turn up for duty.

∞∞∞ BANANA SKIN CLASH FOR THE CHAMPS? ∞∞∞

The last time CSKA Moscow and Brose Bamberg met, the Muscovites needed a buzzer-beating game-winner. After breaking a three-game losing streak last week against EA7 Milano, can the reigning EuroLeague champions capture the double over their German counterparts?

Since that loss, Bamberg have vastly improved and now sit two places below the Playoff bracket in tenth. Despite their good run of form, the German champions know what’s in store when they travel to the Russian capital.

“It will be the toughest game of the season,” Bamberg’s Leon Radosevic said. “For me, they are a Final Four team for sure, but I think, they will win this EuroLeague campaign if they stay healthy. But nevertheless, we go there with our confidence, we will give our best and see, what’s on the score board at the end.”

∞∞∞ IS THIS EA7 MILANO’S BEST CHANCE OF BREAKING THE STREAK? ∞∞∞

EA7 Milano host Galatasaray on Thursday looking to snap a ten-fame losing streak that stretches back to November.

But, in a battle of the EuroLeague’s bottom two, Milano will face a side that has not won an away game all season. However, for a team that had Playoff aspirations before the season started, Milano simply have to win.

“It’s a game we want to play well because we need to improve not because of the standing or to get out of last place but for ourselves and regain confidence in the work we are putting up,” Milan coach Jasmin Respesa said.

“So far it’s been tough for everybody but we never gave up practicing hard and trying to improve and looking for the small things that can still turn things around,” added Milano’s Jamel McLean. “We experienced some lapses and we need to learn from those mistakes.”

In the only other encounter between them in the EuroLeague, Galatasaray won 83-80 in Istanbul back in December. In that game, Vladimir Micov shined with 23 points and six rebounds, and sealed his team’s win from the free-throw line.

∞∞∞ BARCELONA HOST ANADOLU EFES IN BID TO MOVE UP THE TABLE ∞∞∞

Barcelona have had an injury-plagued season. They host Anadolu Efes looking to overturn the four-point loss they suffered to the Istanbul-based side last month.

“It is paramount that we beat Efes in this game,” said Barca forward Victor Claver.

“We are doing everything we can to turn the situation around. We must learn quick from the last games because it was us who lost those. We must stay focused, we do not need big changes. We have to go over our mistakes and play at 100 percent at all times. Our goal in the EuroLeague right now are the Playoffs and we have to work hard to be there, starting with Efes.”

On the other side, Anadolu sit juts outside the Playoff picture and a win will see them edge closer to the spot in the top eight.