Βy Nikos Varlas/ email@example.com
Τhe 11th gameday of Euroleague’s Top16 will be marked by the historical battle of Panathinaikos against Fenerbahce, the return of Obradovic to his “home” and the big fight in Madrid between Real and CSKA Moscow, which will decided the top spot in the standings of Group F.
Game of the decade: Panathinaikos – Fenerbahce/ Ulker
We just couldn’t name this match up game of the week. Zeljko Obradovic returns as an opponent to the gym of his old team. His 13 years with Panathinaikos was a collaboration that resulted in 23 titles, five of them in Euroleague. So this the game of the decade.
Panathinaikos (5-5) and the Green fans will be hosting the coach that created a dynasty in a do or die game for both opponents, as Fenerbahce/ Ulker has also a 5-5 record. It will be tense and emotional, the game is already a sold out and no one can afford to lose.
A former player of Obradovic and also iconic captain of the team, Fragkiskos Alvertis will face a big challenge in just his third game as a head coach. Panathinaikos will try to take advantage of the many defensive weaknesses of Fener, while using its own efficient defense in order to spot key players like McCalebb, Bogdanovic, Preldzic and Kleiza. The Turks will try to play more uptempo, since Panathinaikos has a problem scoring more than 70-75 points even at home.
Τhe secondary goal of Panathinaikos will be to cover the -5 points difference from the defeat at Istanbul. It’s a just a game that you can’t miss. For the Greens, the participation of Ramel Curry and James Gist is still a gametime decision.
After losing just its second game in the season at Munich, Real Madrid (8-2) hosts CSKA Moscow (9-1) in the game that will decide the top of Group F. It will be a game of revenge for Real, which lost for the first time during this season in Russia by CSKA.
The first game ended with the team of Ettore Messina prevailing by 14 points (85-71) and this point difference will be the last stand of CSKA in order to defend its current top spot. It’s a challenge for Messina who probably still remembers his failure at Madrid and the way he left the team back in 2011. His goal will be to control the tempo and don’t let the Spaniards run. That’s why we expect a close game where everything can happen. Milos Teodosic and Jaycee Carroll will be the two great absences for both team, while Donte Draper is racing against time in order to make his return.
The battle of Istanbul: Galatasaray – Bayern Munich
It’s a key game for the 4th spot in Group F which leads to the play offs and also to Barcelona in the quarter finals. Galatasaray (4-6) hosts Bayern Munich (5-5) and the situation at this point is simple. For the Turks a home defeat will be one more step towards elimination from the play offs, but they have proven in Krasnodar that they will not go down without a fight. Bayern after upsetting Real Madrid with a road win will be the big favorite for the play offs in its maiden Euroleague participation. It will be a game of guards and their duel will decide the outcome.
A Green chance: Unicaja Malaga – Barcalona
After losing to Fenerbahce, Unicaja Malaga (5-5) can get a result at home that will boost considerably its play offs chances, against unbeaten Barcelona (10-0). The Catalans have beaten on the road Fener, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos and they have practically secured the top spot in Group E. If the game is decided on the base of the motive the two opponents have, then Unicaja has a lot more to fight for. However, don’t forget that Barcelona is by far the most stable and successful team of Top16.
EA7 Milano (7-3) is the absolute favorite for the second spot of Group E and hosts Andolu Efes (2-8) which at this point is about to be mathematically eliminated from the play offs race. However, coach Luca Banchi will not have available his best player, Keith Langford, but still has a top quality roster. At home the Italians can get the win and continue their path towards the home court advantage. By the way, one of the few Top16 losses of Milano was a product of a miracle shot by Planinic is Istanbul, so this time the Italians will be prepared.
Defeat is not an option: Olympiacos – Laboral Kutxa
The back to back Euroleague champions have a modest 4-6 record, they need to end Top16 with four wins in four game, or else they will probably miss the play offs for the first time since 2005. After losing four straight games in Euroleague for the first time since 2007-08 season they can’t underestimate Laboral (2-8), like Panathinaikos did. Giorgos Printezis will not play for one more game but don’t be surprise if you see in the bench ready to enter the court if there is a need, team leader Vasilis Spanoulis, after missing the three last games.
Game for one: Ζalgiris Kaunas – Lokomotib Kuban
The crowd of Kaunas is the main motive of Zalgiris (1-9) at this point for the game against Lokomotiv (4-6) and a team with no pressure is always dangerous. However, Loko is fighting for the play offs, can’t afford to lose by a team that is out of the race and has the quality to be the favorite.
Tricky: Partizan – Maccabi Tel Aviv
Partizan (2-8) has pride, that’s why Maccabi (7-3) should be careful, or else the Israelis might get in trouble, like CSKA Moscow did by losing at Belgrade. Given the front line woes of Maccabi, the guards will decide the outcome and that goes both ways.