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Greek Cup Final preview

Defending Cup winners Panathinaikos take on their arch rivals Olympiakos in the Greek Cup Final on Wednesday evening. The two Greek basketball giants will be meeting in a Cup Final after 22 whole years, almost a generation later.

But what makes this game so special? As mentioned above Panathinaikos and Olympiakos are the biggest arch rivals in Greece, literally in every sport exists out there, so naturally basketball, the second most popular sport in Greece, could not be an exception.

Both teams have two of the largest budgets in Euroleague, and definitely two of the largest budgets the Euroleague has ever seen. With a rough calculation one can see that on Wednesday evening 24 players worth more than 40 million Euros will come face to face in order to secure the first title of the year, the year, each for his team.

Olympiakos has not won a single title in the past 6 years and this is exactly what they need to do on Wednesday. Win a title, even if it is the 2nd domestic title in order. And what better way to do it than beating their arch rivals and last season's triple crown winners Panathinaikos?

Things have been better and better lately for Olympiakos, since Pini Gershon was sacked that is and Greece NT coach Panayiotis Yiannakis was hired to replace him. Some of the first things Yiannakis changed since day 1 in Piraeus was to stop the alleged pizza deliveries to the team's training sessions and make players be in the gym on time for the training session, especially the American players of the team by fining anyone who was late.

He then convinced his players that playing defense is as important for a team as attacking and got them all involved in the process. Olympiakos guards' defense plays a huge role in the team's playing style now and since the results can not lie, it is working pretty good for Olympiakos. Another smart change Yiannakis achieved was to take some point guard responsibilies away from Lyn Greer and give them away to other players such as Milos Teodosic and Roderick Blakney, something which left Greer a lot of space and energy to play more in the shooting guards position from where he can be more of a danger to the opponent teams.

Olympiakos' players psychology couldn't get any better since they managed to qualify for the Euroleague play-offs by winning 4 straight games. And then came another psychological boost for them when they saw their teammate and probably Olympiakos' best player Arvydas Macijauskas set foot on the court again after almost two months.

Olympiakos will base their game on hard defense, low tempo and cutting off Panathinaikos pick 'n' roll in half by pressing their guards. But it is not all perfect for them as they will be missing Qyntel Woods and Renaldas Seibutis who are not registered for the Greek domestic competition games and they haven't got the best of the records against Panathinaikos, being already 0-2 down this season.

Panathinaikos on the other hand is on a transition situation since the beginning of the season. They failed to reach last season's standards and the team chemistry seems to be wrecked. Coach Zeljko Obradovic has been trying to find solutions all year long but his plans got constantly disrupted by various injuries such as of Dejan Tomasevic and Kostas Tsartsaris.

The players' psychology has hit an all times low after getting knocked out of the Euroleague by Partizan while Panathinaikos away records was 0-3 in the Top16. The relations between some of the team players' have also not been the best lately.

But if there is something Panathinaikos and its players are good in is winning titles and they were signed for this exact reason. Players such as Sarunas Jacikevicius, Demetris Diamantides and Michael Batiste give their best in such games and there is no doubt that they will do that again on Wednesday.

But it's not been all bad news for Panathinaikos lately, as they saw one of their most valuable players Kostas Tsartsaris getting back to action when Panathinaikos took on Aegaleo away recording another easy win while Panathinaikos players' confidence against Olympiakos is high as they have already beaten them twice this season.

The only negative point of this wonderful game will be the fact that although the Final will take place in the 'Hellenikon Arena', a super-modern 14,500 capacity Arena that has cost around 50 million Euros only about 1500 tickets and invitations have been issued in order for dead zones to be created and avoid clashes between the fans. It is estimated that there will be 1 policeman for every fan in the Arena on the game day.

The game press conference was held today and this is what the two coaches and some players stated:

Panayiotis Yiannakis:

'Two of the best teams of Europe will be facing each other on Wednesday and a lot of people would want to watch them. I hope that this Final will set an example and that more people will have the chance to watch such games in the future. I hope that the fans who will turn up enjoy the game and we will do our best to celebrate at the end. In order for a team to be in the Final game of a competition of surprises it means that they have already avoided the upset. Our goal is to be better each game, thus we need to better against one of the best teams out there'.

Zeljko Obradovic:

'We feel proud for playing in yet another Cup Final. A great Final against a great opponent. A Final which last occurred 22 years ago and definitely a game that will attract a lot of attention from a lot of people. The fact that in such a game after 22 years the attendance will be just over 1000 people is disturbing. It is not normal. I wouldn't want to go into the details and the reasons behind that but as my colleague Yiannakis said previously, basketball is very popular in Greece and such situations should be avoided. I hope there will be a good game and may the best team win'.

I must congratulate Olympiakos for making it to the Euroleague play-offs. They played their best and deserved it. There is always speculation about the psychology advantage of one team and these speculations are either confirmed or not after the final outcome. Olympiakos has been playing better lately and we must play even better in order to beat them'.

The game will start on Wednesday 17:30 CET.

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