Belgrade, Serbia – Four of Europe’s top teams will battle it out tomorrow, May 18th, in Stark Arena in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague semifinals. It was not an easy road to get here as these teams had to eliminate some of Europe’s most formidable teams. Only two will get to move on and play for the 2018 championship. Which will they be?
Fenerbahce Istanbul vs. Zalgiris Kaunas
The defending champions from Turkey have the clear advantage in this matchup. They have the experience, the talent and a system that has been tried and tested. Along with all of that though, they are the ones with the targets on their backs and with it the accompanying pressure to repeat as champions.
Zalgiris have played well throughout the season and have a strong case for their legitimate claim to the throne after eliminating Greek powerhouse Olympiacos in the quarterfinals. Surely, Fenerbahce and its coaching staff had to take notice. Simply put, Fenerbahce cannot afford to take their opponents for granted.
In the end, if you had to pick a favorite, it would be wise to go with Fenerbahce. That said, expect Zalgiris to put up one hell of a fight, possibly even pushing them to the limit.
CSKA Moscow vs. Real Madrid
This matchup is almost too close to call. Both CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid have their respective strengths which serve to bolster their respective claims to that finals ticket.
CSKA made good moves to remain competitive despite losing Milos Teodosic to the NBA. With Nando de Colo providing a spark from the team’s backcourt, CSKA managed to finish the 2017-18 regular season atop of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings with an impressive 24-6 record.
Real Madrid on the other hand, has managed to overcome injuries and balance out their system to maximize the manpower they had at their disposal. Beyond all of that, they also have a not-so-secret weapon, Europe’s hottest teenage sensation in Luka Doncic. Will the youngster be ready to outplay CSKA despite his youth and inexperience? He will have veteran Sergio Llull back to help provide a bucket load of that experience and some masterful insight in the backcourt.
This will be a game of inches, possessions, and minutes, even seconds. It could literally go either way. Whichever way it goes, it will be a basketball game to remember.