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Navarro in action

Navarro in the Spanish Cup Final. PHOTO: V. SALGADO - FCB

It’s time for the Liga Endesa Final! Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are currently going through their last preparations for what will be their sixth meeting of the season. Madrid are 4-1 in the series, but although the odds are against Barça, they are capable of beating the all-whites. Apart from the European semi-final in Milan, they have all been very tight games.

It all starts at 9.30 PM CET. The sides are 30-30 in ACB playoff matches, and their two head coaches are also tied in face-to-face encounters on 15-15. But Pascual has the edge, 13-10, in games with Madrid since he became Barça manager. This is the 12th time that the two clubs have met in the final.

FC Barcelona form

Despite a long season of 75 games, Barça have nothing to worry about in the fitness department. That means Xavi Pascual will have to drop two members of his squad, but he won’t be announcing who until an hour before the game.

The win over Valencia Basket, decided by a spectacular buzzer-beating score by Marcelo Huertas, in the semis was a major boost for confidence. It took some incredible mental composure to overcome that challenge, but they are here now, and both for the fans and themselves, the players are desperate to get their hands on the coveted trophy.

FCB captain Juan Carlos Navarro is once again likely to be the main man. He’s now played even more clásico matches than Madrid legend Biriukov (50) and today will surpass the tallies of Barça’s Epi and Jiménez (51). It’s been a record breaking season for Navarro, who passed the 1000 three-pointers mark, beat Herreros’ record for playoff 3-pointers, and also set a new all-time best for playoff appearances, surpassing Rafa Jofresa.

The opponent

Real Madrid have been one of the best teams in Europe this season. They play lively basketball and score high, but their form seems to have been tailing off as the season has grown older. Injuries, tiredness and some very difficult opponents have been something of a reality check, but they’re still the favourites in the best-of-five final, especially with home court advantage in their favour.

Real Madrid are a dangerous opponent, with a wonderful blend of talented stars and grafters that get less time in the limelight. It’s not just about Rudy, Sergio Rodríguez and Sergi Llull. In their shadows are the likes of Reyes, Slaughter, Carroll and Draper who provide the perfect balance to the more flair-based players. They’ve already won the ACB Super Cup and the Spanish Cup this season, as well as reaching the Euroleague Final. But FC Barcelona now stand between them and one more piece of silverware.


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