If there’s a team that can turn a quarter-final playoff in the Euroleague around, it’s Barça Regal. Despite missing key players, the men led by Xavi Pascual fought tooth and nail in the first three matches of the series and the latter two slipped just out of reach for the Blaugrana. There are reasons to be optimistic, however, last season Barça defeated their opponents in the fourth match and won the fifth match at the Palau, in the finals of the Liga Endesa. When everyone wrote the Blaugrana off after they had lost the third game by 26 points, Barça Regal bounced back and stormed the series to take the title. The match which ended with a 75-81 scoreline that started the comeback in the series saw Lorbek, Wallace and Mickeal put in fantastic performances. Is it beyond the realm of possibility to think that they will do it again?
Last year, in Madrid, Pascual switched up his tactics as he set up a 2-3 zone defence after converting a basket, in addition to a mixed defence on Jaycee Carroll, which worked to perfection. Despite the fact that tomorrow’s match is, of course, a different situation, Barça Regal know that they have a wealth of experience to draw from in order to reach the Final Four in London. Knowing that Real Madrid - Barça’s possible rival in the semi-finals - have already qualified is an added dose of motivation for the Blaugrana. Panathinaikos, who hope to get a repeat result of last year’s Euroleague, know that they will be pressed hard by Barça Regal in Athens.
“Never underestimate a champion”
Basketball history is riddled with teams that have overturned a bad string of results to storm back and take the series. “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion,” said Huston Rockets manager, Rudy Tomjanovich, in 1995, when his team won back to back NBA titles (1994 and 1995). We are now in a different era, but the sentiment can easily be applied to Xavi Pascual’s men, who showed the world what they are capable of in Vitoria earlier this year.
This Thursday, at the OAKA in Athens, in front of 20,000 fans, Barça Regal will play a do-or-die match. Nothing but victory will do. They have experience and talent at their service, and the Blaugrana are determined to bring the series back to Barcelona.