The action keeps coming thick and fast with October’s second two-round week, which will provide 18 games as the two unbeaten leaders in the standings head on the road in their quest to stay perfect.
Tough week ahead for Fenerbahce
After suffering a narrow defeat in the final seconds to Real Madrid last week, another major challenge is coming for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (2-3) with the visit of another in-form Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona (5-0) on Tuesday night. Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius’s team remained one of two unbeaten teams by gaining a thumping victory over Zenit St Petersburg on Friday and with key players Nikola Mirotic, Brandon Davies and Nick Calathes all in fantastic form it will be a tough challenge for Fenerbahce to get back to winning ways.
Coach Sasa Djordjevic’s team will then complete a very demanding week by traveling to Olympiacos Piraeus (3-2) on Thursday. The Reds are a perfect 3-0 at home so far this season and will hope that remains the case by the time of Fenerbahce’s visit; Olympiacos starts the week on Tuesday at home to dangerous ALBA Berlin (2-3), which will be feeling confident after picking up good wins over Fenerbahce and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the last couple of weeks.
Bayern and Milan in playoff rematch
The other unbeaten early pacesetter atop the standings is AX Armani Exchange Milan and it will attempt to make it six wins out of six with a testing trip to FC Bayern Munich (1-4) on Tuesday. The game will be a repeat of a thrilling playoffs series between the teams at the end of last season, which ultimately saw Milan clinch a place at the Final Four following a set of enthrallingly close battles.
Bayern lifted a weight off its shoulders by finally getting its first win of the season at the fifth attempt against Zalgiris Kaunas last week, a game which also saw All-EuroLeague forward Vladimir Lucic return from injury. Tuesday’s meeting will also provide a fond reunion between Bayern coach Andrea Trinchieri and Milan forward Nicolo Melli, who truly became a force to be reckoned with during two seasons under Trinchieri’s tutelage at Brose Bamberg between 2015 and 2017.
In-form CSKA aims to keep rolling
Along with table-topping Barca and Milan, the competition’s other in-form team is perennial challenger CSKA Moscow, with Dimitris Itoudis’s team bouncing back from an opening night defeat against Milan to win four consecutive games despite significant injury problems. The key player during CSKA’s winning run has been former Final Four MVP Will Clyburn, who has scored at least 16 points in each of his team’s victories and gained the third MVP of the Round award of his career with a 29-point performance in last week’s win over Olympiacos.
The job of slowing down Clyburn this week will fall to a pair of French League clubs, with CSKA visiting LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne (3-2) on Wednesday before making the short journey south to take on AS Monaco (2-3) on Friday. That latter clash will be a special occasion for Monaco sharpshooter Mike James, who departed CSKA in controversial circumstances midway through last season and will certainly not be lacking in motivation when he goes up against his old teammates on Friday night.
Momentum-chasing Efes facing double green test
After finally getting its season started by downing UNICS Kazan last week to take its first win, reigning champion Anadolu Efes Istanbul (1-4) will now attempt to build more momentum by traveling to Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (1-4) on Wednesday and then hosting another green team, Zalgiris Kaunas (0-5), on Friday. Both upcoming opponents for Efes are struggling for form, with Panathinaikos suffering from a three-game losing run while Zalgiris is rooted to the bottom of the standings as the EuroLeague’s lone winless team.
On paper, it looks like an ideal opportunity for Efes to start rapidly climbing the standings. But the narrow nature of the win over UNICS, 71-68, will give hope to Panathinaikos and Zalgiris that they can spring an upset, especially if key guards Vasilije Micic and Kruno Simon remain sidelined for the champs. If that is the case, Coach Ergin Ataman could again give plenty of minutes to new signing Elijah Bryant, who impressed with 14 points and 4 rebounds during 32 minutes on the floor in his debut against UNICS.
Real aims to prove road credentials
Real Madrid has improved to 4-1 on the back of four home wins, but now Pablo Laso’s men need to prove they can get wins on the road after losing their only away game so far at Olympiacos in Round 2. And this week sends Real for a double dose of action in Russia with Wednesday’s trip to Zenit St Petersburg (3-2) followed by a Friday date at UNICS Kazan (1-4).
Zenit will be aiming to bounce back from its disappointing defeat at Barcelona, where the team’s 13 first-half turnovers will certainly be addressed by Coach Xavi Pascual – an old foe but close friend of Laso.
Friday’s opponent also has a coach who knows Real very well. UNICS chief Velimir Perasovic spent 12 seasons in Spain at the helm of four different clubs including Valencia Basket and Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (3-2) and the latter will be the first opposition of the week for UNICS on Wednesday. Baskonia will be confident after stringing together three straight wins on the back of sharpshooting Simone Fontecchio, who has averaged 17.3 points over the last four games.
Seen at: Euroleague.net