EuroLeague preview: Istanbul derby with plenty at stake

EuroLeague
Photo: EuroLeague

Fenerbahce host Galatasaray at the Ulker Sports Arena on Thursday night with both sides on the back of morale-boosting wins earlier in the week as they look to climb up respective parts of the EuroLeague table.

Last season’s EuroLeague runners-up secured a vital road win over Unics Kazan and are riding a three-game winning streak whereas Galatasaray dished out a rampant 102-63 hammering on a woeful Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv at the Abdi Ipecki.

The win for Galatasaray wasn’t enough to get them out of the bottom three but maybe a win over the fiercest Istanbul rival would their gradual rise to form going.

“For us it’s a very difficult game, a derby,” said Fenerbahce’s Bogdan Bogdanovic. “We know Galatasaray played a very good game against Maccabi. They are playing better than at the beginning of the season, and it will be a very good game for our fans, of course.”

∞∞∞ PANATHINAIKOS ATTEMPT TO HALT CRVENA ZVEZDA ∞∞∞

The EuroLeague’s hottest team Crvena Zvezda are at home as they look to make it seven wins on the bounce as they face Panathinaikos.

The Greens themselves got a win in the last round, defeating familiar EuroLeague foes in the shape of Barcelona. Both teams currently share 11-8 marks heading into a potentially pivotal clash.

“At this time it is a hot team that has the best defense in Europe,” Panathinaikos coach Xavi Pascual said. “They beat teams like Barcelona, Madrid, Fenerbahce and CSKA. We have to play very well and control the pace, because at home they play with energy. We have to control the rebounds.”

Pascual’s opposite number Dejan Radonjic though comes into the game with concerns regarding fatigue. The new format of the EuroLeague features two games during the week, not to mention the domestic schedule as well. It resembles an typical week in the NBA, but the veteran coach insists that his side will be ready.

“Right after the game with Baskonia, we have to prepare already for such a strong rival as Panathinaikos. We will try to overcome all the obstacles: a tough trip back to Belgrade with no sleep, a short time to prepare. We have to be ready for a great team coached by the great Xavi Pascual.

“Panathinaikos built a great team this season and you can see that from their place in the standings right now. We will give everything we have on the court, as we always do, to win a home game.”

∞∞∞ HOW WILL MACCABI RESPOND? ∞∞∞

Sitting second from bottom and competing 48 hours after being handed one of the heaviest defeats in their history, question will be how will Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv respond when they host Unics Kazan in the late game.

Both sides need to start racking up wins in order to get back into the Playoff race, but is it now too late?

“We have to decide what we play for,” said Maccabi coach Ainars Bagaskis. “I think you play for pride. For the team, for fans’ respect. There are no excuses for our last game. I hope the players felt the same as coaches: bad. What we ask the players for is responsibility, effort, pride.

“I understand what previous coaches went through: we’re missing a classic four player. Even Quincy Miller, coming back from his injury made us look much better when he was able to play. This season is not finished. We represent Maccabi. Every game matters. I like what Winston Churchill used to say: ‘Never, never give up.'”