Solid in the Euroleague and reliable in the Endesa League, Barça Lassa faces without problems the classic derby against Real Madrid this Sunday (19.30). After successfully passing the first section of a demanding Euroleague with a balance of 6 wins and 3 losses, the Catalan team will seek to add a prestigious win – the ninth in the league – that will allow it to stand as a solo leader of the ACB.

With the factor “home court” in favour, Svetislav Pesic faces the duel with the eternal rival as another challenge for his team to continue growing, something that his players demonstrated against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan (90-80). This time, Barcelona will measure their defensive performance against the best offense of the competition. In the first 9 games of the Endesa League, Real Madrid holds an average of 93 points per game, some figures slightly higher than the Barça team (90.11), the second best performance.

The fight for the rebound is also expected to be the key. Barcelona is the team with the highest percentage of rebounds in the Endesa League, capturing 54.5% in each game. The veteran Balkan coach seems to have created a compact group with very defined roles. Guards Kevin Pangos and Thomas Heurtel move the strings of the offense, Chris Singleton (10.4 points) and Kile Kuric (10.9 points) are the main external threats, while Ante Tomic (10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds) imposes its hierarchy in the painted area.

Precisely, the struggle between the Croatian center and Walter Tavares under the baskets is crucial. At the same time, the contribution of the second unit formed by Pierre Oriola, Pau Ribas, Víctor Claver, Adam Hanga and Jaka Blazic is important for the Catalan team. In any case, Pesic seems to have changed the mentality of the players, who in the 4 losses between the Endesa League and the Euroleague have been able to compete, while in the tight endings they have not faltered.

In addition, Barcelona has a total of 8 wins at home, so far. Likewise, Pesic has an unblemished record as a host in the classics. The Serbian coach has won the three games he has played at the Palau Blaugrana against Real Madrid. In the last five years, the azulgrana team has played a total of thirteen classics of the Endesa League at the Palau Blaugrana, with a balance of 9 wins and 4 defeats.

This will be the first clasico without the presence of Juan Carlos Navarro after many years. Therefore, the entity chose the match against Real Madrid as the date to retire the shirt with the number ’11’ of its former captain, which will be hanged on the roof of the Palau Blaugrana along with other legends of basketball that already saw their numbers retired: Juan Antonio San Epifanio ‘Epi’, Nacho Solozábal, Roberto Dueñas and Andrés Jiménez. The event was eventually postponed since Navarro’s father passed away.

Víctor Claver spoke to after Barca’s defeat to Panathinaikos OPAP on the 8th Gameday of the Euroleague.

“It was a very tough match. They play very physical. From the beginning they have played very aggressively on defense. We have not managed to find our rythm and I think they were the ones who defined the intensity of the match”, the 30-year-old Spaniard commented.

“At this point, Panathinaikos look fine“, he added. “They are a team that plays very hard and intense, especially at home. It’s hard to win here. They have some great players who scored from behind the arc but that doesn’t worry us. We did our job on defense and the problem was the loose balls and the second chances, of which they have taken advantage”.

Claver seems perfectly satisfied with the performances of his team so far and believes that Barca might have grown into a dependable team this year: “We are happy, we are working in the right direction. The away games are difficult. We know that the season is very long, that we have to continue. This is an intense week and we have to go out and win in Friday’s and Sunday’s game. We can assure everyone that we will fight to be in the top positions and try to get as far as possible”.

As far as the competition in the Euroleague goes, he doesn’t think it’s harder than ever: “With this format, all teams have their chances; any team can beat anyone and that is what makes it hard. It is a very demanding competition where you have to give the maximum since day one. All teams can fight to be in the play-offs”.