Fener in must-win game for survival

Fener in must-win game for survival

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fener in must-win game for survival

Fenerbahçe Ülker’s Croatian forward Bojan Bogdanovic dunks during his team’s Turkish Airlines Euroleague defeat against defending champions Panathinaikos. AFP photo

Fenerbahçe Ülker is in a desperate bid to survive in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague since it will host Unics Kazan in a game it cannot afford to lose tonight.

The Turkish champion will be eliminated from the top-level club competition in European basketball if it loses to Unics – or if it wins by less than five points and Panathinaikos beats EA7 Emporio Armani in another Group G game.

If any of that happens, Unics (3-1), the reigning Eurocup champion in its first Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, will clinch a Playoffs spot.

“This is the most important game of the season for us,” Fenerbahçe Ülker coach Neven Spahija was quoted as saying on the Euroleague website. “It’s one of our last chances. We have to play with 100% in front of our spectators and try to win.

“Unics Kazan is a good team and play impressive away games. But we will give our best and try to win.”

Unics has not faced Fenerbahçe in Istanbul since 2004. The Istanbul side has lost two of its last three games at home and faces a true road warrior, as Unics has a 5-2 Euroleague record outside Kazan this season.

Unics coach Evgeny Pashutin acknowledged it would be a tough game.

“The coming game against Fenerbahçe Ülker will be very important for us,” he said. “I’m pretty pleased, we have got all the roster at our disposal with no players injured. We are now working hard to prepare physically, psychologically and mentally to the game. We will definitely be set to play defensively, keeping the balance and controlling our offensive play.”

Fenerbahçe Ülker is likely to welcome Marko Tomas from injury but veteran Turkish guard Ömer Onan will miss the game.

Unics was without Petr Samoylenko and Terrell Lyday in its Russian League game this weekend due to sickness. Both players have recovered and will play this week.

In the other game at the Group G, defending champion Panathinaikos takes on EA7 Emporio Armani Milan in Athens.

It will be a very special game for Milan’s Antonis Fotsis, who won two Euroleague titles with the Greens in 2009 and 2011.
The host (3-1) will clinch a playoffs spot if it beats EA7 Emporio Armani or if it loses by fewer than 21 points and Unics beats Fenerbahçe Ülker.

Panathinaikos center Aleks Maric said it would be a tough match.

“It’s almost always more difficult to face a team the second time around,” he said. “You know them better, they know you better. And this second game will have nothing to do with that first game there. “We have to take care of our game, we have to watch out for their creators and we have to keep in mind that they are a different team to the one we faced in Italy, since [Malik] Hairston is back and they also signed [J.R.] Bremer. We have to be focused, ready and effective both in defense and offense.” In other Group H games tonight, Maccabi Electra (2-2) meets Zalgiris (0-4) and Barcelona Regal (4-0) plays at Bennet Cantu (2-2). Spanish sides Real Madrid (2-2) and Unicaja (0-4) meet in a Group F game. k HDN

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