There is no EuroCup action this week, so instead of my usual recap I will focus on the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and specifically what to expect this week. Round 9 will play out through Thursday and Friday in Europe’s elite club competition and the regular season is now taking some shape.
As I mentioned last week, this has been a red hot Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season so far. Each team is capable of beating the other, and while there are some early pace-setters, putting a finger on the eventual 2018 champion is nearly impossible. We know the giants will be there or there about, but can anyone say clearly that one of the unfancied dark horse don’t have chance?
Khimki Moscow Region (5-3) fits the bill of dark horse this season. The club has won five games, although needs to right a recent slip of two losses. Next up for the club is Fenerbahce Istanbul, the current Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champs. The title holders started the campaign indifferently, but recent good form as put the club at 5-3 alongside other former champs Real Madrid, Panathinaikos, and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
However, all of the above clubs are trailing CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos, with the two clubs at 6-2 at the top. This week, CSKA travels to EuroCup champs Unicaja Malaga (3-5), which has been picking up some victories in recent weeks. A trip to the Spanish south coast is always tough, but CSKA looks to be in fluid touch at the moment.
As for Olympiacos, last season’s beaten finalist will be a guest of AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan. Just like last season, Milan’s inconsistencies are plain to see by the Italian champs’ losing 3-5 record. That said, the team is capable of turning it on at home, so Olympiacos will need to be at its best. Speaking of the Greek giant, a dogged determination has the potential to push Olympiacos deep this season.
One club looking unlikely to go far is former champions Barcelona. The Spanish giant meets fellow former winner Maccabi Tel Aviv in Catalonia. Both these clubs suffered awful EuroLeague campaigns last season, but Tel Aviv (5-3) has recovered better than Barcelona (3-5). Is this the most fascinating match up of the week? It will be interesting to see where these clubs are at the moment.
Game of the week will take place in Greece, where Panathinaikos Athens clashes with Real Madrid. Both teams are locked on 5-3 records, so something has to give this week. Los Blancos was flying during the opening weeks, but then lost three on the bounce. Panathinaikos have been moving along consistently so expect a high-quality clash between two of the continent’s juggernauts.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul (2-6) has recovered from a terrible start to pick up two wins in recent weeks. However, could Lithuania be a game too far as the Turkish club meets a Zalgiris Kaunas (4-4) having arguably its most fruitful Euroleague regular season in recent memory?
Valencia stunned European hoops last season by clinching the Spanish league title. However, the EuroLeague has proved a tough step to take and the club is sitting on a 3-5 record. Next up is Brose Bamberg in Germany. The Bundesliga champions (4-4) are inconsistent, but have the ability to teach Valencia a lesson. However, if the indifferent Bamberg team shows up, the Spanish team may sneak a win.
Personally, Crvena Zvezda Belgrade’s huge 2016/2017 has been one of my recent Basketball highlights, especially the teams’ run in the EuroLeague. However, the going has been harder this campaign and the team is on a 2-6 record at the foot at the table. Next up is Baskonia Vitoria, one of the most aggressive attacking forces in the league. However, in the Serbian capital, Crvena Zvezda always has a sixth man.