The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season is a clash of elite clubs showing the best hoops on the continent, but it is also a war of attrition. Before we even get to knock-out Basketball, the teams must play through thirty rounds of action. This week, at the beginning of December we are reaching Round 10, exactly one third through the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season. So, there is plenty yet to be decided, but plenty of stories have already been told. Here’s the preview for this week’s contests
Khimki Moscow Region vs Brose Bamberg
Let’s not forget, Khimki started with four consecutive wins and I was labelling them dark horses this season. I am not willing to remove that moniker, but the wheels have come off a bit in recent weeks and the Russians now nurse a 5-4 record. This week, Brose Bamberg visit Russia. The German champs are capable of big highs and deep lows, so what will we get in Round 10? Khimki is the lowest scorer in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with 67 points per game, so Bamberg will fancy its chances.
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan vs Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Efes has the joint worst record in the league, but will be looking to pick a much-needed win against fellow strugglers Milan. However, the Italians champs are no pushovers at home and will know the Istanbul club is arriving low on confidence. Neither club is lighting fires this season and both really need a win here. Of course, that usually means we will either get a classic encounter or a nervy contest. Lookout once again for Efes’ Errick McCollum, who is the team’s most potent offensive threat.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv vs Zalgiris Kaunas
After the annus horrible of the 2016/2017 season, Maccabi Tel Aviv is having a rejuvenation. Its not vintage from the former European champs, but a 5-4 record is a solid showing. For Zalgiris, the same 5-4 record is excellent, and the club is having one of its most productive continental seasons in years. Three wins from its last four suggest Zalgiris can cause Maccabi Tel Aviv trouble. With 80.8 points per game, the visitors certainly have the tools. This is another tough one to call.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz vs Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
Baskonia has struggled this season, but recent weeks have brought a small bump in fortunes and the club is now at 4-5. Fenerbahce has moved along smoothly in its title defence and its 6-3 record puts it in the chasing pack near the top of the standings. However, Baskonia has a good record against the Turkish giant, winning its last seven home games (right back to 2004) against the champs. Fener will be desperate to change that, so in a game between two attacking teams, expect fireworks.
Valencia Basket vs Olympiacos Piraeus
Valencia is doing solidly in its Spanish Liga Endesa title defence, but is struggling in the EuroLeague on 3-6. The task will not get any easy as the team welcomes co-league-leader and former champ Olympiacos this week. Indeed, Valencia has not beaten the Greek heavyweight in its last five attempts and despite home advantage, is not favourite here. Olympiacos is doing what it usually does and building from the back with the best D in the league, conceding just 71.44 points per game.
CSKA Moscow vs FC Barcelona Lassa
Game of the week? Maybe, but what’s certain is this is a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague classic between two former multiple champions. However, there are contrasting seasons here. CSKA Moscow is the co-leader with a 7-2 record, while Barcelona is having another poor campaign at 4-5. The Catalan giant has shown glimpse of excellence this season, but it still feels like a team in transition. CSKA on the other hand is flying. The Army Men have the best scoring attack in the division, with 87.3 ppg.
Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens vs Unicaja Malaga
Panathinaikos is putting itself right in the mix this season and its 6-3 record is among the best in the league. Unicaja Malaga not so much, the EuroCup champs are finding the leap to the EuroLeage tough at 3-6. Panathinaikos has won its last five games against the Spanish team and with the Athens faithful in full voice this week, a home win seems likely. Malaga will have to up its league-worst 71 points per game to collect a surprise win this week.
Real Madrid vs Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Crvena Zvezda was my story of last season. As well as winning the Serbian and Adriatic leagues, the club went to the EuroLeague Play-Offs, it was an imagination-capturing run. This season has been a different story and the team is floundering on 2-7 at the bottom of the standings. However, Real Madrid has hardly been special. Los Blancos started with a 4-0 run but has lost four of its last five for a 5-4 record. Real Madrid is just not in good enough form to suggest this is the home win banker this really should be.