The most exceptional and even Euroleague in history faces the finish line to proclaim the champion. Twenty-three months after CSKA lifted the continental title at the Buesa Arena, the crossword towards the Final Four in Cologne (May 28-30) will be defined on the last day of the regular phase in which Real Madrid , Baskonia , Valencia and Zenit play the two places in the top-8 pending award. On the way to the photo finish , 295 games played with 135 away victories (46%), more than ever; 17 postponements due to infections, quarantines and restrictions due to covid (12 of them in the first 10 days); one more for the collapse of the storm Filomena; and a minimal presence of the public concentrated on the courts of the Russian teams (CSKA, Zenit and Khimki) and Maccabi during this month, once the vaccination process in Israel was on track. The only sure thing is the leadership of Barça , who will have the home court factor in their favor in the quarter-finals, just like CSKA and Efes. The rest of the cabals are resolved between Thursday, Friday and Monday, when the Zenit-Panathinaikos will be played, suspended in October, which may be key in the equation.
MORE INFORMATION Real Madrid, Zenit, Baskonia and Valencia, to the 'photo finish 'of the Euroleague
Barça: the challenge of returning to a Final Four seven years later
“It has merit to finish first, but this is not our final goal. We cannot get tired of winning ”, declared Jasikevicius after sealing the lead. The challenge for Barça, which closes the regular phase against Bayern this Friday at the Palau (9:00 p.m., Dazn) pending the possible premiere of Pau Gasol, is to return to the Final Four seven years after his last participation in the Milan 2014 edition , with Xavi Pascual on the bench. His rival in the quarterfinals can be, depending on the results, any of the other three Spanish teams (Madrid, Baskonia or Valencia) or Zenit, now trained by Pascual. Since the playoffs were established in the 2004-2005 season, 80% of the teams that had a field advantage in the 60 series contested reached the Final Four (since 2009, the best of five games, the percentage drops to 77 %. 34 of the 44 teams advanced with the field factor in favor)
Real Madrid: on the wire in Istanbul and pending the Zenit
Real Madrid, which has been present in seven of the last nine Final Four and does not miss the playoffs since 2012, it is played this Thursday against Fenerbahçe in Istanbul (19.45, Dazn). Sergio Llull, who is rushing to recover from his knee injury, joins Laso's call for the key event at Ulker Sports, while the Turkish team has the important loss of Jan Vesely and the doubt of Nando de Colo. Laso's set (19 wins) depends on himself. If you win, it's inside. In that case it would be sixth, or even fifth if Bayern fall at the Palau. If Madrid loses it would become dependent on Zenit de San Petersburgo and would need a defeat for the Russian team in one of the two games that remain to be played (against Maccabi and Panathinaikos, both at home). If that Russian defeat occurs, the whites would enter as the eighth and their rival in the quarterfinal tie would be Barça. "I see the team very involved and that is why I am calm," Laso said in the preview. Fenerbahçe have won 15 of the last 18 games. Madrid presents a balance of seven wins and nine defeats in the second round
Baskonia: direct duel at La Fonteta and waiting for the
carom Dusko Ivanovic's team needs to beat Valencia at home this Thursday (21.00, Dazn) to have options , but the victory does not guarantee a pass to the quarterfinals. Baskonia need Madrid to lose in Istanbul to Fenerbahçe (they have won the average with the whites) or that Zenit lose the two remaining games (because they lose in the event of a draw with the Russians). "It is illogical that there is no unified schedule on the last day," Ivanovic complained the day before, also regretting the deferred resolution that may also cause the dispute next Monday of the postponed game of Zenit. Baskonia has nine wins in the last 11 games and in the first round they beat Valencia by one point at the Buesa Arena (71-70). In the ACB, they beat the Taronja team at home (76-73), but fell decisively at La Fonteta in January (83-61).
Valencia: at stake, the immediate future and next season
Valencia will only play the next Euroleague if they qualify for the quarterfinals of this edition. Jaume Ponsarnau's team, like Baskonia, need to win and wait. In case of victory, to qualify they need Madrid to lose or Zenit lose one of the two remaining games. The Valencians have won the average to whites and Russians and would also win in the event of a triple draw. "Entry to the Euroleague for teams from France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey is through the EuroCup, not invitations," said the competition's executive director, Jordi Bertomeu, who wants to work on those quotas “especially with the Adriatic countries”. Therefore, the only way for Valencia to retain its place is by entering the top eight. If left out, the two finalists of the Eurocup would qualify for the next edition. Herbalife Gran Canaria is fighting in the semifinals against Monaco.
Last day of the regular phase of the Euroleague
Thursday, April 8
Fenerbahçe-Real Madrid (19.45)
Alba-Estrella Roja (20.00)
Valencia-Baskonia ( 21.00)
Friday April 9
Armani Milan-Efes (20.45)
Zenit-Panathinaikos (Monday 12, 18.00)
CSKA-Panathinaikos (Wednesday 14, 18.00)
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