Βy Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not the end we expected for a thrilling Top16. Already seven play offs tickets are taken and only one spot is still open, but Galatasaray is the favorite to get it. Still the big game will be played in Greece, even if it decides just the play offs couples and not the tickets.
The way things were going before last week, we all expected a big finish and a fight for play offs survival in the game between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. But the results of Fenerbahce/ Ulker at Milano and Vitoria, combined with the Reds and Greens’ wins last week, decided the two last play offs tickets in Group E and made the clash between the two teams a game which will decide only which team will be third and which team will be fourth in the final standings.
Still this is one of the most glamorous and tense games in Europe. The sold out was a matter of five and a half hours, the defending champions are coming from three straight defeats by their “eternal rival”, all of them on the road, and now they want to respond. After all in the continental competitions games against Panathinaikos they have the advantage with 5-3.
We expect a strong game, very tactical oriented and it’s the first time that Fragkiskos Alvertis will be visiting SEF as the head coach of the Greens. Stratos Perperoglou is expected to return to action, while the Greens don’t have any absence. The winner of the game is expected to play against CSKA Moscow at the play offs and the loser against Real Madrid.
The “Queen” has the last word
CSKA and Real Madrid will fight until the last minute for the top spot of Group F. Coach Messina’s team will be tested at Tel Aviv against Maccabi which has already locked the third place and will face EA7 Milano in the play offs with the Italians having the home court advantage.
It’s one of the most traditional battles in the history of European basketball, so both teams are expected to perform their best. In case of a win by Maccabi, then Real Madrid practically locks the top spot, before their Friday game at Kaunas against Zalgiris. If CSKA prevails on the road, then the Spaniards need also a win and they already have a +23 points advantage in the total goal average which will decide a possible tie. Both teams have beaten each other in Top16 with the same 14 points difference.
Advantage for Galatasaray
The last ticket for the play offs will end up either at Galatasaray or at Lokomotiv, but the Turkish champions have a more than great advantage. The Russian club is hosting on Thursday Bayern Munich and they just have to win. If they do, then Galatasaray should also beat Partizan. Also in this case, the total goal average will decide the possible tie – both teams have won one of their two head to head Top16 games by one point – and Galatasaray has a comfortable +24 points advantage.
The last dance
The rest of the games don’t have any importance for the play offs or the final standings. Fenerbahce/ Ulker will host Anadolu Efes in a clash between two ambitious teams which didn’t meet their high expectations, specially Fener.
Barcelona is hosting Laboral Kutxa, while waiting to know their opponent in the play offs, either Lokomotiv, or most likely Galatasaray. EA7 Milano travels to Malaga but the Italians will probably be more worried about the injury of their captain Alessandro Gentile and the possible return of Keith Langford for the play offs.