Will Real Madrid stand tall, despite the injuries and difficult schedule?

Euroleague
Euroleague

Following Anthony Randolph’s and Ognjen Kuzmic’s serious injuries, the “Whites” should now play at very high standards in order to avoid any major upsets, given their very difficult schedule until the end of the year.

Although Real remained undefeated in the Euroleague (2-0), following their victory over rivals CSKA Moscow in Madrid on Thursday night (82-69), coach Pablo Laso and his players had mixed feelings after the match, as they saw Kuzmic and Randolph leave the game, due to injuries.

More specifically, the Serbian center suffered a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and will be out of action until the end of the season. To make matters worse, Randolph dislocated his shoulder and will miss the next month.

Consequently, and with power forward Trey Thompkins being in his country to resolve personal issues and not being available to play, Felipe Reyes and Gustavo Ayon will need to be at their very best to help the team be effective inside the paint.

Earlier in the season, Laso had to deal with Sergio Llull’s serious knee injury, with the great two-way guard being expected to make his come-back in April.

Sergio Llull was injured while on international duty with Spain.

However, the “Whites” back-court line is very talented, including versatile players that can be productive in more than one positions (Luka Doncic, Fabien Causeur, Facundo Campazzo, Rudy Fernandez, Jonas Maciulis and newcomer Chasson Randle), so it will be easier for them to cover the 2016/17 Euroleague MVP’s absence.

On the other hand, the experienced coach needs to make many changes to his tactics, so as to retain the squad’s front-line’s performance at high levels.

With only Reyes and Ayon ready to compete, it’s likely Jeffery Taylor and Maciulis will play as power forwards and Reyes will act as Ayon’s back-up in the center position.

Concurrently, Fernandez, Jaycee Carroll and Causeur will play both as shooting guards and small forwards, with Doncic, Randle and Cambazzo as point guards.

That said, it’s obvious the remaining players will need to enhance their performance, with Real’s very deep roster offering Laso many “weapons” on both ends of the floor.

With European champion and Euroleague’s Rising Star, Luka Doncic, as the undisputed leader, the “Whites” now are on the brink of a two-month period with great matches in both the ACB and the Euroleague.

More specifically, and with both leagues being ultra competitive, Real will face very difficult opponents until the end of the year, including rivals Barcelona, the Greek giants Olympiacos and Panathinaikos as well as Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Baskonia, Unicaja Malaga and Valencia.

At the same time, the team should avoid suffering any painful losses in the Spanish league, in order to secure not only their presence in the Copa del Rey’s Final-8, but also the home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Although it’s still too early in the season, the nine-time Euroleague champions will need to prevail over the other top Spanish clubs, like Barcelona, Valencia and Baskonia, so as to take an advantage over them.

Overall, I believe coach Laso and his players will successfully overcome the obstacles, thanks to their deep and talented roster, and will remain one of the favourites to win both the Euroleague and the domestic titles.

Their run’n’gun playing style and their effectiveness in five on five situations as well as in transition will enable the “Whites” to make decent performances and beat their opponents.

In the end, there is a possibility the administration will decide to acquire another center, with Gasper Vidmar reportedly being one of the targets, however there is nothing official yet.

Starting with the matches against Armani Milano (at home) and Zalgiris Kaunas (on the road) on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, Real Madrid will try to stand tall and win all their matches, waiting for Randolph’s and Llull’s return to action.

Until then, coach Laso should ensure the entire roster will be at its very best in every game, with the 2015 Euroleague champions showing their determination and decimating Malaga at home on Sunday afternoon (99-85).