Real Madrid are the underdogs going into tomorrow’s Euroleague final, the players themselves have stated.
“If I’m a fan looking from the outside, I’d say we are underdogs, Olympiacos is the champ,” Madrid shooter Jaycee Carroll said during Saturday’s team practice. “
“I think the pressure will be on Olympiacos tomorrow, as champions going into this contest,” added Rudy Fernandez. “They have a fantastic defensive mindset, as you saw against CSKA and they’ll no doubt do the same to us as well, or at least try to.”
The Spanish international was effective away from scoring in yesterday’s semi-final victory over rivals Barcelona. The former Portland Trailblazers and Dallas Mavericks guard scored just eight points but pulled down five rebounds and registered four steals.
Real Madrid had the tougher contest from the semi-finals. They eventually defeated Barcelona 74-67 with a stellar performance in the final quarter where they recovered from a poor third period to grab the win, helped by 17 points from Felipe Reyes.
Heading into tomorrow’s game, Reyes looked confident in the pre-game press conference.
“I believe that even though we haven’t played a Euroleague final before, we were in very important finals at the national team level and have the experience required for games like this,” he said. “We will see which of the two teams has more problems to handle the pressure, but both teams are very experienced in games like this.”
But could the feeling that Madrid are underdogs be a psychological tactic being played by the Whites? Appearing in their first Euroleague final since 1995, the year of their last triumph.
The form is slightly on their side, overall this season they are 21-7 compared to Olympiacos’ 21-9 going into tomorrow’s championship clash plus they have the added bonus of history on their side, winning European club basketball’s top prize eight times, more than any other side in the Euroleague.
“I’m not falling for mind games,” Olympiacos’ Acie Law said. “End of the day a game is going to be a game and the stakes are high.”
“We have prepared well for this, and we will be ready. We were in this spot last year as well so we got the experience. But so have they, so it will be difficult. But as far as the psychological stuff is concerned, none of us are listening to it. We’ll be going out and playing our game and playing to win.”
For Olympiacos, they are gunning for back-to-back Euroleague crowns and their third overall. Friday’s night’s 69-52 win over CSKA Moscow was in some ways an upset, but they simply outplayed the Russians in every department, comfortably sealing their passage to another championship game.
Defensively, they were sublime, CSKA were on the wrong side of Olympiacos’ aggressive resistance as Milos Teodosic and company crumbled.
“That was the plan,” joked Kyle Hines. “There was nothing to it though. It was a simple game plan and it worked.”
The result is another final.
“For me and for us it is a great honour to find ourselves in the final after this difficult season and to be able to challenge for the trophy,” Georgios Printezis said at the pre-game press conference. “It’s not very easy for our country to have a team in the Final Four every year. In our opinion our opponent has a better team, better players, big bodies. They are in good form. It will be very difficult. If we want to have a chance, we have to show same strength and focus as we did yesterday. “
Order of play (Sunday)
CSKA Moscow vs Barcelona (17:00 local time – 18:00 CET)
Real Madrid vs Olympiacos (20:00 local time – 21:00 CET)