AX Armani Exchange Milan was back on the big stage last season as it reached the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four for the first time since 1992. Once there, it fell in semis, but Coach Ettore Messina and his roster full of talent and experience made a statement that they will seek to back up in 2021-22. Like every season, Milan will have a few stops that will catch the eye of the fans across the continent. These are the five that stand atop the list.
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ROUND 6 – Cementing a new rivalry
The duels between Milan and FC Bayern Munich only go back to 2014. Since then, however, they have faced each other 13 times and seven of them were in 2020-21. Milan was one of the two only teams to sweep Bayern in the regular season and later they squared off in a five-game playoff series that Milan won 3-2. There is no doubt that last season took the rivalry between these two teams, both of them coached by Italian bosses, Ettore Messina and Andrea Trinchieri, to another level. The rivalry resumes when they meet in Round 6.
ROUND 8 – Avenging Cologne
After the longest regular season ever and a similarly long and tough playoff series, Milan finally was back in the Final Four in Cologne. The problem was that its opponent in the semifinals was FC Barcelona, the regular-season champ. It was a tough battle that was decided down the stretch when Cory Higgins hit a memorable jumper. Even though Milan fell in the semis, the team and its fans will be eager to welcome Barca to the Italian fashion capital and try to make up for that painful loss.
ROUND 15 – Getting back at the Greens
A game between Milan and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens is always a marquee duel. The former is a three-time EuroLeague champion while the latter lifted the trophy six times. Despite the big picture rivalry between these two classics, there’s also the issue that last season the Greens managed to sweep Milan in the regular season. And not only that, but Panathinaikos won the two games by 3 points each. So expect Milan to be ready to get back at Panathinaikos as it tries to go as deep, at least, as it did last season.
ROUND 22 – Messina, Hines return to Moscow
When Milan visits the Russian capital, two of the most important men for CSKA Moscow in the last two decades will be returning to what used to be their former home. Coach Messina lifted CSKA back to the European elite; he guided the team to the 2006 and 2008 EuroLeague titles. Kyle Hines was a cornerstone on the CSKA teams that won in 2016 and 2019. Messina coached CSKA for a total of six seasons, while Hines played there one more. CSKA fans will surely receive them with a standing ovation.
ROUND 29 – As classic as it gets
The duels between Milan and Real Madrid had filled lots of pages in the history books since they first faced each other in 1963. Their duels even include finals and semifinals and in 2021-22 their history together will add another chapter. In 2020-21 Coach Messina and his team managed to sweep Real in the regular season with a 78-70 win at home and a 76-80 success in Madrid. Of course, one must not forget that Messina and Sergio Rodriguez were also on Madrid’s side a few years ago, the latter even winning a EuroLeague title and season MVP honors with Los Blancos. The return of Milan to Madrid is as classic as it gets.
Seen at: Euroleague.net