ONE spot remains in the EuroLeague Final Four. With the top three seeds – Fenerbahce Istanbul, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow – booking their trips to Vitoria in two weeks time, the identity of their fellow survivor comes down to Wednesday’s sole Game 5 in the quarter-finals of the Playoffs.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul hosting FC Barcelona with their European campaign on the line.
And based on the four contests so far, it could fall either way with each team claiming one triumph on the road in a series that has been every bit as tight and dramatic as expected.
To the credit of Efes, they held their Catalan foes to below 74 points in three of the preceding duels including in the extraordinary 102-68 Game 3 rout at the Blaugrana. Only in facing elimination in Game 4 did Barca break out – but not hugely – with an 82-72 win that forced the decider.
Efes are 13-4 at home in the EuroLeague this season, including 2-1 against Barcelona, who are only 7-10 so far on the road.
And the Turkish outfit will hope for another grand showing from their backcourt of Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin who have outshone Thomas Heurtel and Kevin Pangos. Barca – who are 2.70 for victory – need points, and enough of them, despite their own impressive defence.
The victor will face Fenerbahce in the semi-finals on May 17 but with the 2017 champions still 2.40 favourites to regain their title, it might be a hollow prize.
— Gianluca Zappa (@GianlucaZappa) June 12, 2016
Tenerife set to shine?
The FIBA Champions League reaches its conclusion this weekend with its Final Four in Antwerp.
And Tenerife are 2.25 favourites to win the competition for the second time in its three-year history.
Friday’s semi-final against the hosts should be a relative breeze with Antwerp Giants 2.88 to progress, even on their own court. And the Canary Islanders’ core remains the heartbeat of their success, with a 12-2 regular season record enough to solidify their status as front runners, followed up by an impressive quarter-final defeat of Hapoel Jerusalem.
The other semi is tougher to forecast with Virtus Bologna 2.12 to defeat Brose Bamberg in what is an emotional return for one of Europe’s great clubs to a major stage.
Adding Sasha Djordjevic as their head coach mid-season was a terrific switch and their inside game at both ends is a defensive poser.
But Bamberg’s own coaching U-turn in bringing in Federico Perego has delivered momentum, and a German Cup so far, while knocking out BCL holders AEK Athens to make the last four attests to their calm under pressure.
Taking Brose at -4 at 2.15 looks a solid bet, as is going under 150 total points.
And at 3.75 now for the trophy, an early punt on the Germans could pay dividends.