Xavi Pascual’s men start the very complicated road to the Euroleague’s Final Four in London this Friday against Brose Baskets. Here’s an overview of all the big-name teams that could make it to the O2 Arena in May:
The rising power of Turkish basketball
Two of the most powerful teams in this edition of the Euroleague come from Turkey. Turkish teams usually threaten for the title but all efforts have been unsuccessful as of yet.
Andalou Efes from Istanbul, with men like Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic in the squad, both of whom have played in the NBA, is one of the most fearsome Turkish outfits. Farmar signed for the team this summer and Vujacic is enjoying his second year in Turkey, both players were signed from the Brooklyn Nets. In addition, the two ex-NBA players are accompanied by Esteban Batista, Dusko Savanovic and Stanko Barac, all of whom played in the Liga Endesa, and the ex-Real Madrid player, Kerem Tunceri. The squad is completed by Semin Erden and Keren Gonlum. Name by name, there’s no doubt that the team managed by Oktay Mahmuti oozes quality.
Fenerbahce Ulker is the other Turkish representative in the Euroleague. The team has brought in quality players from Italy and Greece, like Bo McCalebb and David Andersen - from Montespaschi and Siena - and Romain Sato and Mike Batiste - ex-Panathinaikos players. This year Fenerbahce have an experienced and quality team that combines attacking talent with defensive power equally.
Russia, Greece and Spain, the classic teams
No Euroleague is complete without Russian, Greek, or Spanish teams. For example, CSKA Moscow, where Milos Teodosic and Aaron Jackson play - one of the best duos in the competition - employs potent interior play led by Nenad Kristic and Sasha Kaun.
Panathinaikos and Olympiacos are two historic teams in the competition. The Athenians are led by Bimitris Diamantidis who’s a true nightmare for any defence. Even though they lost Mike Batiste, their interior play won’t be lacking thanks to the new signing Sofoklis Schorsanitis. On the other hand, the Piraeus team, led by Vassilis Spanoulis, will attempt to defend the title they won last season.
When it comes to Liga Endesa teams, Barça Regal and Real Madrid lead the way. The main danger of the Spanish capital side is their exterior line, led by recent signing Rudy Fernández and accompanied by Jaycee Carroll and Sergio Llull, among others. Caja Laboral, despite coming close on various occasions, has never won the title, while Unicaja Málaga could register quite a few upsets this year.
The dark horses Khimki and Maccabbi
The Russian side Khimki and Maccabi Tel-Aviv cannot be underestimated this season. Even though their respective rosters don’t boast as many stars as the other competing teams, it should be noted that they are fearsome sides. The Russians are led by Vitaly Fridzon, who had a fantastic performance in the London Olympics, and the Israelis are led by the expert Lior Eliyahu. Maccabi also has two dangerous weapons: on the bench they have the master tactician David Blatt and in the stands their fans create a deafening atmosphere at the Nokia Arena year after year.