Newcomers step up from EuroCup into EuroLeague

Khimki and Valencia meet in the Moscow Region on Friday in their EuroLeague opener but they are already familiar with each other.

The two teams fought in last season’s EuroCup quarter-finals where Valencia won the three-game series 2-1. The Liga Endesa side went on to the finals where they were edged out by fellow ACB side Unicaja Malaga.

However, Valencia’s EuroLeague place was sealed when they captured the Liga Endesa title. And now they open their account against the team they eliminated in last season’s EuroCup.

“It is going to be hard, but we have to take one game at a time and try to win each game that we can,” Valencia’s Will Thomas said.

“They have a different team from last year when we played them in the EuroCup. They will have a few players in place but signed a few other guys like Stefan Markovic, who played here and I played with him in Malaga. They come in the same situation as us, with a lot of players playing together for the first time. We will see what happens.”

But Valencia will be playing a different Khimki side, who themselves qualified for the EuroLeague through the VTB League, where they finished second behind CSKA Moscow.

New coach Georgios Bartzokas, who led Olympiacos to EuroLeague glory in 2013 and Lokomotiv Kuban to the Final Four in 2016 will aim to guide Khimki to Belgrade next May, but admits that first, they must overcome their lack of experience.

“Of course, we need to overcome the lack of experience in this competition and at this level,” Bartzokas said. “Basically, in our frontcourt we are talking about three newcomers in the EuroLeague. But we are positive and believe in our team.”