Juan Carlos Navarro in action in the 2011 quarter final against Panathinaikos. PHOTO: ÁLEX CAPARRÓS – FCB

After the pain of the 2010/11 play-offs, when Panathinaikos left Barcelona without a place in the Final Four in their own city, the clubs go head to head again at the same stage of this year’s edition of the Euroleague.

Two years ago, Barça were looking forward to defending their title on home soil, but Panathinaikos got in the way. Now is the chance for revenge, with a place in the final at the O2 Arena in London at stake.

Argiris Pedoulakis’ side finished fourth in Group E, which is why they face Barcelona, who finished top of their own Top 16 group.

Favourable balance

After going 13-1 in the second phase this season, Barça have history on their side against the Greek outfit. They have a long history of tight encounters over the years, but overall Barça are 13-12 against their quarter final rivals.

Panathinaikos have changed radically this season, although Dimitris Diamantidis is still the main man. Star names like Mike Batiste and Romain Sato have left the club, while the other main faces to look out for are Roko Ukic, Michael Bramos, James Gist and Marcus Banks.

The coach on Panathinaikos

Xavi Pascual spoke today about the play-off match-up. "That’s the team we’ve got and we’ll have to prepare ourselves well to win this” he said. “They are a top class team and have some great long shooters. Maciulis and Bramos are both physically strong. Roko and Diamantidis play well together. They’re big. And Lasme, Schortsanitis and Gist are physically very good. And they’ve also got experience. We’re going to need to find the right point of physicality and aggression.”

He added that “I don’t suppose they will be very high scoring matches. There’s a lot of pressure on the home team in games like these and that can affect accuracy. These games tend to be decided by rebounds and any easy baskets that are given away.”

Game one on April 9

There is no respite in the Euroleague, and the first quarter final will be next Tuesday, April 9 at 20.00 in the Palau Blaugrana. Barça have home court advantage and game two on Thursday 11 will also be at the Palau, while the series then goes to the OAKA on April 16. If a fourth game is needed, that will also be in Athens on April 18, and a hypothetical fifth and deciding game would bring us back to Barcelona on Thursday April 25.

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