Galatasaray takes on Barça in Euroleague

Galatasaray takes on Barça in Euroleague

Galatasaray takes on Barça in Euroleague

Galatasaray Liv nHospital is a newcomer at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague playoffs, however, 10 of the Istanbul club’s players have earlier playoff experience. AA photo

Galatasaray Liv Hospital will tonight be at Barcelona away for the first game of a Turkish Airlines Euroleague clash, hoping to make a surprise against the Spanish powerhouse.

Barcelona has a 5-3 record of reaching the Final Four since the playoffs format came to the Euroleague back in 2004-05. Galatasaray, on the other hand, is a newcomer at this stage, but as many as 10 of its players have previous playoffs experience, whereas almost as many as 11 for Barcelona.

Galatasaray enters the playoffs having won four of its last five games, with its only defeat having come by a single point on the road in overtime against Top 16 group winner CSKA Moscow.

Galatasaray coach Ergin Ataman is relying on Carlos Arroyo to control the game tempo and play half-court offense, so stopping him will be the biggest key for Barcelona in this series. Barcelona, as always, will look at Juan Carlos Navarro as its leader, but can also count on center Ante Tomic, the first back-to-back MVP of the Month winner, to turn its home-court advantage into a series victory.

Barcelona seeks its fifth Final Four appearance in six years as a stepping stone to a chance to win its third Euroleague title. Galatasaray, having overcome injuries all season long, is ready to dream big about a first trip to the Final Four.

Also tonight, a rematch of last season’s Turkish Airlines Euroleague final will bring together Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus, but this time, a best-of-five series.

Olympiacos looks for its fifth Final Four appearance in six years in pursuit of a truly historical three-peat, something that only ASK Riga (1958-60) and Split (1989-91) were able to do in the past.

“We are proud because we have the opportunity to defend our two consecutive Euroleague trophies and we will do our best to go to the Final Four,” Olympiacos player Evangelos Mantzaris was quoted as saying on

Madrid, the highest winning team in the competition with eight continental titles, is aiming for a third Final Four appearance in four seasons - and for its first Euroleague title since 1995.

Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso knows his squad has to play much better if it is going to beat the two-time defending champion and any of the other sides it encounters the rest of the way.

“There will be the eight best teams in Europe,” he said. “We must play as a team to reach the Final Four.”

Olympiacos will rely on reigning Euroleague MVP Vassilis Spanoulis and its great team spirit to make things happen, despite a home-court disadvantage in the series. Madrid looks stronger than last season, especially at the center, as former Olympiacos big man Ioannis Bourousis and Salah Mejri have strengthened the team’s defense and helped it make the most out of a high-scoring and fun-to-watch playing style.

Madrid is undefeated at home in all competitions this season, but Olympiacos is on a four-game winning streak - the Euroleague’s longest at the moment - and still the champion until someone else can take the trophy away.