Fener, Beşiktaş on key away Euroleague tests
AA PhotoFenerbahçe Ülker plays at Mapooro Cantu, while Beşiktaş visits Lietuvos Rytas as the two Turkish teams play in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague tonight.
Fenerbahçe Ülker goes into game as the heavy favorites, while for Beşiktaş, it is a key battle to continue its Top 16 bid.
Fenerbahçe Ülker has lost just once in its opening four games, and its form was boosted with a comfortable home win against Panathinaikos last week. On the other hand, Italian Cantu has won just once in its four matches. The Yellow Canaries will try to continue their run in their bid to challenge Real Madrid as the Group A leader.
Fenerbahçe Ülker won both regular season matches against Cantu last season.
The Istanbul team’s coach, Simone Pianigiani, has faced Cantu several times in recent seasons, when he was the Montepaschi Siena manager. Pianigiani says that Fenerbahçe Ülker did well so far, but warned that Cantu is a tough team to play an away game against.
“Until now we did the right job in the Euroleague if you think that we had a new team and with many problems and injuries,” he was quoted on the competition’s official website. “But now, we have to be consistent on all games and we know that Cantu is one of the most difficult places to play in because of the quality of the team, the crowd at the arena.”
Respect for Pianigiani
Cantu center Nicolas Mazzarino acknowledged that the team is wary of Pianigiani’s importance in Italian basketball.
“The Turkish team started a new era with Simone Pianigiani as head coach: anybody knows him very well here since he has dominated the Italian championship over the last years with Siena,” he said.
“They built an incredible roster with the purpose to reach the Final Four. They signed McCalebb, [David] Andersen and [J.R.] Bremer that were my opponents last year in the Italian championship.”
Cantu will be without point guard Jerry Smith, who broke his foot over the weekend. Fenerbahçe playmaker, Bo McCalebb, sat out the team’s important 83-74 Beko Basketball League victory against Beşiktaş on Nov. 5, but is expected to suit up tonight.
“I believe its going to be a tough game, they have a good team and are well balanced,” said Fenerbahçe Ülker center Andersen, another former Montepaschi man, just like Pianigiani and McCalebb.
“Plus playing at home in front of their crowd its really hard. If the atmosphere is anything like I remember from when we played there with Siena last season it will be crazy with fans going nuts, singing and screaming.
“It should be a good test and good game for us against a good team.”
While Fenerbahçe Ülker will not be satisfied with just qualifying for the Top 16, things are different for the Turkish champion Beşiktaş, who will be happy with a top-four finish in the six-team group.
Beşiktaş’s bid to qualify for the Top 16 will be tested in Lithuania tonight. The Black Eagles suffered two defeats against two of the competition’s favorites, Barcelona Regal and CSKA Moscow.
Beşiktaş trails the Final Four hopefuls with two wins in four matches, and will seek a comfortable place with a win over Lietuvos Rytas, who has one win in four matches. This will be the first meeting between the two teams, but Beşiktaş will find hope in the Lithuanians’ past record in home games against Turkish sides, when they enjoyed just three wins in nine matches.