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17th May 2019

Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final-Four Preview, Vitoria-Gasteiz 2019

The EuroLeague Final Four for the first time since it’s inauguration in 2000 comes to Vitoria-Gasteiz. In the province of Alava, Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of Basque Country and is home of Saski Baskonia who were agonisingly knocked out by CSKA Moscow in the playoffs. This year the Final Four are made up of the top four teams in the regular season. Anadolu Efes Istanbul are the new kids on the block this year with the other three teams have 18 European honours between them, Anadolu Efes are looking for their first. It looks set to be a brilliant weekend of Europe’s finest basketball action and it all gets underway at 18:00 CEST on Friday.

Last year’s Final Four in Belgrade saw our streams attract over 1,000,000 views, with a total view time of 9.8 million minutes of basketball. The final between winners Real Madrid and Fenerbahçe enticed 115,000 unique viewers and highlights the magnitude of the weekend ahead

 

1800 CEST Friday, May 17 – Fenerbahçe vs Anadolu Efes

The first game of this year’s Euroleague is an absolute feast for European basketball fans. It is the first time that two Turkish teams have qualified for the Final Four weekend, and the Derby to kick off proceedings will feel like the final for the numerous Turkish fans in attendance.

FENERBAHÇE BEKO

Founded: 1913

Regular Season Finish: 1st

Head Coach: Željko Obradović

EuroLeague Wins: 1 (2017)

Domestic Wins: 25

Fenerbahçe, under the guidance of arguably the greatest coach in European basketball history, have now reached the last five Final Four tournaments.  When you consider that prior to 2013 they were relative unknowns at the EuroLeague Final Four, their transformation under Obradović has been remarkable. Fenerbahçe, became the first Turkish side to win a Euroleague in 2017 and after topping the regular season table, they come into the tournament as bookies favourites.

Fenerbahçe will be relying on key players such as Sloukas, Guler, Guduric and Muhammed to carry them through to the final with other key names missing through injury. The true strength of the Turkish giants lies in how strong they are in the final quarter. They have won 17 of their last 20 final quarters and it has clearly stood them in good stead, given they topped the EuroLeague regular season table.

An injury-plagued season means that Luigi Datome, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jan Vesely and Nikola Kalinic are all out of the semi-final clash. A surprise defeat in the playoffs to Zalgiris and a loss to the far inferior Banvit at the start of the month will give Anadolu hope that they can topple Fenerbahçe. They also trail Anadolu in the domestic league by just a point, giving their opponents more hope that they can do what they have already done three times this season and beat Fenerbahçe and in doing so reach their first Final Four final.

ANADOLU EFES

Founded: 1976

Regular Season Finish: 4th

Head Coach: Ergin Ataman

EuroLeague Wins: 0

Domestic Wins: 35

Anadolu’s they beat Barcelona in the playoffs to make their first Final Four tournament since 2001. They are the most successful club in Turkish Super League history and on that evidence their lack of EuroLeague success is a surprise to some. Anadolu’s are the outsiders of four for the competition, but given they topped the Turkish regular season, they are certainly not punching above their weight in their quest for glory.

Anadolu have found strength in their organisation and the power of players such as Shane Larkin, Vasilije Micic and Adrien Moerman have given them the consistency that in recent seasons they have lacked. Victory against the toughest playoff opponents Barcelona should have them very ready for the fierce competition in store this weekend. They will be as hungry as any team in Spain to claim that elusive first title for Anadolu Efes, and given the wealth of experience in the team, there is no doubt they will be hopeful they can claim their place in the record books.

Conclusion

Given the injuries to Fenerbahçe, this is a huge opportunity for Anadolu to reach their first final. Their recent league form is very good, and their fans will be full of anticipation that they can complete the dream. However, given the strength of Fenerbahçe despite their injuries and their experience of the Final Four, Obradović and his men may prove too much of a challenge for Anadolu Efes.

 

21:00 CEST Friday, May 17 – CSKA Moscow vs Real Madrid

The second semi-final is a repeat of last year’s renewal between CSKA and Madrid. Last year Madrid came out on top and Coach Laso will be hoping for the same this time around. The two teams finished 2nd and 3rd in the regular season and it looks a very tight game to call.

CSKA MOSCOW

Founded: 1923

Regular Season Finish: 2nd 

Head Coach: Dimitrios Itoudis 

EuroLeague Wins: 7

Domestic Wins: 65

CSKA won the 2016 EuroLeague under Head Coach Itoudis. However, despite being part of the line-up at every tournament since 2012, EuroLeague Final Four heartbreak is a regular occurrence for CSKA fans - they have won just one of their last nine Final Four appearances. Last year was a particularly distressing case for Moscow as they topped the regular season, before crashing out to Real Madrid in the semis and then losing their third-place playoff to Zalgiris, eventually finishing fourth.

CSKA look very strong this year and with the likes of Kyle Hines, Nando De Colo, Sergio Rodriguez and Will Clyburn all having great seasons, the stage looks set for a big challenge. With so many strong players on their roster, they do not rely as heavily on one or two players to have big games, as perhaps some of their rivals do. They have already beaten Real Madrid twice this season and their semi-final against Baskonia gave them two chances to have a run-out at the Fernando Buesa Arena. All this should put them in a very good position ahead of the game tomorrow night. The defeat of last year may still to be in the back of Moscow fans minds but having beaten Madrid two-from-two in the Euroleague this season they will be confident of overcoming the Spanish giants.

REAL MADRID

Founded: 1931

Regular Season Finish: 3rd  

Head Coach: Pablo Laso

EuroLeague Wins: 10

Domestic Wins: 66

Real Madrid are the most successful team in EuroLeague history, winning the EuroLeague an unprecedented ten times. They also hold the record for the number of Spanish League and Spanish Cups wins; arguably making the most successful team in European history. Real Madrid won the competition last year in Belgrade and in 2015, giving Coach Laso two wins at the club since he joined in 2011.

Madrid’s route to the final was not easy, but they beat heavy hitters Panathinaikos 3-0 and this should give them a huge amount of confidence coming into the finals. They are also unbeaten in their last ten games and Coach Laso seems to have the likes of Rudy Fernandez, Anthony Randolph and Walter Tavares really humming. In addition, Real Madrid’s European heritage should hold them in good stead against this CSKA Moscow team, who are known to find the pressure of the EuroLeague Final Four too much at times.

Conclusion

Real Madrid’s two defeats to CSKA Moscow this season are a worry and their opponent’s playoff experience at the Fernando Buesa could pivotal in the tie.  While Real Madrid have a similar team to last year; Luka Dončić, a major factor in their 2018 win, is now with the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA. This could be a huge loss to Los Blancos. Given their 2-0 record this season over Madrid, Coach Laso will have to put on another tactical masterclass to ensure Los Blancos are not beaten 3-0 this season by Moscow and on that evidence, we envisage CSKA Moscow having too much strength and depth in their squad for the Madrid men this year

 

Prediction:

FINAL FOUR WINNER – CSKA MOSCOW

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