With four games remaining until the end of the regular season, everything is still open in the play-off race, with nine clubs fighting tooth and nail to secure their place in the postseason as well as the home-court advantage.
CSKA Moscow is the favourite to finish first in the standings, with Olympiacos and the defending champions, Fenerbahce, doing their best to earn the second place on the table.
Concurrently, Real Madrid are in a position of strength over their opponents in their effort to finish fourth, while Khimki, Panathinaikos Superfoods and Zalgiris Kaunas try to overcome each other and claim the fifth place.
Moreover, Baskonia has made a come-back and now is the favourite to eliminate Maccabi Tel-Aviv and earn the last play-off spot, with the two squads having the same record, after 26 games in the league (13-13).
The Muscovites close to secure the first place
CSKA Moscow escaped from Istanbul with a great victory over the defending champions, Fenerbahce, thanks to Nando De Colo’s two-pointer at the buzzer (79-81).
Consequently, it is not so likely they will see the Greeks and the Turks overcome them, which means they will end the regular season on top for another season.
Although their schedule is rather difficult in the next four games (Olympiacos, Crvena Zvezda at home, Khimki, Zalgiris Kaunas on the road), they will secure the number one spot in the standings, if they beat the “Reds” at the “MegaSport Arena” on Wednesday night.
Olympiacos and Fenerbahce to fight for the second place
The Greek giants had the opportunity to improve their chances to finish second, yet they were decimated by Barcelona at home on Thursday night (63-90), so they are still tied with Fenerbahce (18-8).
Despite being very close to the home-court advantage, they need to win two of their last four matches in order to secure it.
As they face the likes of CSKA Moscow (away), Anadolu Efes (home), Unicaja Malaga (away) and Zalgiris Kaunas (home), they just have to protect their home court in order to ensure they will end up either second or third on the table.
Similarly, coach Zeljko Obradovic and his players want to finish as high as they can in the standings, however the “Reds” have the upper hand, in case the two clubs are still tied in the end of the regular season.
With only one difficult game remaining for the Turks (against Khimki in Moscow), they will do their best to avoid suffering any major upsets against Maccabi Tel-Aviv (home), Crvena Zvezda (away) and Malaga (home), in order to maximise their chances to overcome Olympiacos.
Real Madrid one step ahead of their opponents for the fourth place
The Spaniards have an easy schedule in the next four games (Valencia, Crvena Zvezda on the road, Zalgiris Kaunas, Bamberg at home), which enables them to comfortably secure the home-court advantage.
Although the match against the Lithuanians will be of utmost importance for both clubs, I don’t think coach Pablo Laso and his players will lose three times in the next four games, which would mean that the fourth place could be in jeopardy.
At the same time, it is not so likely for the squad to overcome Olympiacos and Fenerbahce, so I guess they will retain their current place until the end of the regular season.
Khimki, Panathinaikos and Zalgiris Kaunas to fight tooth and nail for the fifth place
The Russians suffered a painful defeat to Armani Milano at home 10 days ago (77-86), yet their impressive victory against Maccabi Tel-Aviv on the road (91-94) helped them retain their chances to climb higher on the table.
With the squad facing Anadolu Efes and Barcelona on the road, it is necessary for them to win both games, since it’s doubtful they will prevail over both CSKA Moscow (23/3) and Fenerbahce (29/3) at home.
That said, they currently are one step ahead of their opponents, however they may end up seventh, if they lose to Anadolu Efes and Barcelona.
On the other hand, the Greeks earned a much-needed victory against Unicaja Malaga on the road (79-90), yet they still need to make some changes to their playing style in order to remain competitive.
It is crucial for the “Greens” to beat both Crvena Zvezda and Valencia at home, as it is unsure whether they will claim the victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv and Armani Milano on the road.
Given the team’s mediocre performances on the road, I believe they will finish sixth in the standings and will face either Fenerbahce or Olympiacos in the playoffs.
For their part, Zalgiris are coming from two straight losses and their extremely difficult schedule can easily make matters worse.
Apart from the match against Armani Milano at home (which is expected to be an easy one for the club), they will battle against Real Madrid (away), CSKA Moscow (home) and Olympiacos (away), which means it is possible they could suffer three straight defeats and come very close to be eliminated.
For me, though, I believe they can protect their home court and claim (at least) the seventh place in the standings.
Baskonia to make the impossible
The Basques have turned things around and now are the favourite to clinch the last play-off spot, thanks to their current three-game winning streak.
Their easy schedule (Bamberg, Anadolu Efes, Maccabi Tel-Aviv at home, Barcelona on the road) helps them retain the upper hand over the Israelis, yet a major upset can turn things upside down once again.
On the other hand, Maccabi have been defeated in three of their last four matches, while their schedule (Fenerbahce, Baskonia, Valencia on the road, Panathinaikos at home) forces them to play at much higher standards, if they want to ensure they will finish eighth and avoid having another disappointing season.
Last but not least, their battle on Thursday, March 29th, at the “Fernando Buesa Arena” will be of utmost importance for both clubs, with the winner of this match probably securing the eighth place and going on to face CSKA Moscow in the playoffs.
Overall, and since the regular season of the Euroleague has reached its turning point, everything is on the line regarding the battle for the playoffs, with exciting matches being set to take place in the next three weeks, starting from tomorrow night, as each team will play twice this week (Tuesday – Thursday, Wednesday – Friday).