EUROLEAGUE PREVIEW: FC Barcelona v Real Madrid
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At 9pm local time (8pm CEST), there is something huge happening in Kaunas, Lithuania. FC Barcelona go head to head with Real Madrid in search of a place in Sunday's final and the chance to become European champions for the third time.
The winners face either Olympiacos or Monaco, who are playing their semi-final earlier in the day at 5pm CEST.
Clásico of Clásicos
This is the sixth time the two rivals have met this season. Barça won both games at the the Palau, in the domestic league (97-82) and the EuroLeague regular season (75-73), and also won in the ACB at the WiZink Center (78-87). Madrid won the other two games, one in the EuroLeague at home (91-86) and also the Spanish Super Cyp Final in Seville (89-83).
This is the second year in a row that there has been a Clásico in the EuroLeague semi-final. Real Madrid won in Belgrade 12 months ago (83-86).
Real Madrid in strong form
Madrid reached the Final Four after a heated quarter final against Partizan, where they became the first team to ever qualify after losing the first two games of the best-of-five series at home. They went to Serbia and won both games and then sealed it with a win at home. Standout players include Walter Tavares and Dzanan Musa. The former is ranked sixth in the competition and the latter is ranked tenth.
They also have the experience of veterans Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernández and Sergio Rodríguez, as well as former Barça man Mario Hezonja.
Deck misses the game through suspension, Yabusele is injured and there are question marks over the fitness of Vincent Poirier.
Barça in form
But Barça are also in a sweet moment. They have worked hard all season to make sure that they hit their peak when it matters most. Which is now.
They are the only side that swept their quarter final series 3-0, and against Zalgiris Kaunas, the hosts of the finals. So they are already familiar with the Zalgirio Arena, which also where Sarunas Jasikevicius started out as coach and where Rokas Jokubaitis played his youth basketball.
On an 11-game winning streak, Barça are looking very sharp right now, and will be hoping to go one step further after stumbling at the final hurdle in Cologne 2021 and Belgrade 2022.
The only absentee is Cory Higgins, who recently underwent a back operation.
Support in Kaunas
The Zalgirio Arena holds 15,000 spectators, and around 1,000 of those have arrived from Barcelona, and have already been making their presence felt in the streets of Kaunas this last few days... Bring it on!
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