Panathinaikos and Olympiacos will face each other on Friday night (06/12) in the first “Greek Clasico” of the season.
Starting with the “Greens”, the arrival of Rick Pitino has changed the team for the better, both mentally and in terms of tactics.
The 67-year-old Hall of Famer, who made his debut on the “Greens” bench against the Basques on Thursday (28/11), immediately changed the game plan and saw his players impose their playing style on both ends of the floor.
Panathinaikos made their best performance in the EuroLeague this season and Pitino, who replaced head coach Argyris Pedoulakis and received a standing ovation from the club’s fans, should be given credit for this.
Ahead of Friday’s derby, it is clear the squad will rely on the duo of Nick Calathes (13.8 and 9.1 assists per game) and DeShaun Thomas (14.3 points per game), who have been the most consistent players so far.
At the same time, the performance of Jimmer Fredette (14.1 ppg), Ioannis Papapetrou (11.2 ppg) and Tyrese Rice (45.2% from the three-point range) will be vital for the “Greens”, with all three of them being “game-changers” for the club.
On the other hand, Olympiacos are playing their best basketball at the moment and want to defeat their arch-rival and further boost their confidence.
Head coach Kestutis Kemzura has distributed the roles in the best way possible and the team has started improving its chemistry level.
The duo of Giorgos Printezis (11.4 points) and Nikola Milutinov (10.5 points, 9.8 rebounds per game) will have a central role in the tactics, as the “Reds” will try to exploit their opponents’ defensive flaws in the frontline.
Certainly, the presence of the supporting cast (Kostas Papanikolaou, Brandon Paul, Taylor Rochestie etc) will determine whether the “Reds” will be competitive until the end, while captain Vassilis Spanoulis (10 ppg) will be a key factor for the squad.
Defence will be crucial for coach Kemzura and his players, since Panathinaikos has the best offensive line in the league (88.5 points) and is also on top of the assist/turnover ratio (187.5%).
Given the “Reds” are not very productive offensively (77.91 ppg), their plan will be to limit their opponents to 78 or fewer points and take the upper hand in the battle.
Both clubs want to extend their winning streaks; Panathinaikos is on a three-game winning streak and has won five of its last six games (7-4 record).
On the contrary, Olympiacos have played very well recently, having earned two victories in a row and three in the last four matches (5-6).
The six-time EuroLeague champions are not facing any injuries, two days before the match. On the contrary, the “Reds” will have to wait to see whether backup center Willie Reed will be medically cleared to compete on Friday (06/12).
Reed is dealing with an adductor injury and his participation will most likely be a game-time decision.
Panathinaikos enter the game as the favourites and they will attempt to earn an emphatic victory at the packed (all tickets will most likely be sold by Thursday) Olympic Athletic Sports Center in Athens.
On the other hand, this is not a do-or-die game for Olympiacos, yet the three-time EuroLeague champions want to stun their opponents and climb higher in the standings.
Early betting odds have already been released for Friday’s clash, with EuroLeague betting tips suggesting that Panathinaikos starts from the pole position to win the “Greek Clasico”.
Without a doubt, though, all bets will be off in this classic derby, with the players’ mental preparation and confidence being two of the factors that will decide the outcome of the match.
Overall, an exciting matchup is expected between the two Greek giants, who will meet for the first time this season, with a red-hot atmosphere being guaranteed.