Real aim to end 20-year Euroleague wait on home court
By Zoran Milosavljevic
MADRID (Reuters) - European club basketball heavyweights Real Madrid will be hard pressed to win their first Euroleague title since 1995 when they host the competition’s Final Four this weekend.
The showpiece tournament also features dark horses Fenerbahce Istanbul, who clash with Real on Friday for a berth in Sunday’s final, as well as CSKA Moscow and Olympiakos Piraeus who meet in the other semi.
Touted as strong favorites to win their ninth overall title, Real face a banana skin against Fenerbahce who romped into the Final Four under the helm of the Spanish club’s former coach Zeljko Obradovic, who steered them to their last Euroleague trophy two decades ago.
The 55-year old Serb, who has won a record eight titles in the premier club competition with four different clubs, also mentored Real’s present coach Pablo Laso when the Spanish giants won the second-tier Saporta Cup in 1997.
Known for nurturing a free-flowing attacking game relying on flair and talent, Laso pointed out he had no qualms about applying a different strategy after last year’s shock defeat by Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final.
“If we win the Euroleague in an ugly game, I would be as happy as if we won it in a great match,” the 47-year old from the Basque city of Vitoria told the competition’s official website (www.euroleague.net).
“Fenerbahce are a talented team, hard to match up against and able to change their rhythm. I have a lot of respect for (Obradovic), I learnt a lot from him in the two years that I spent with him.”
Heavy investment by Fenerbahce’s owners paid off in the club’s second season under the iron-fisted Obradovic, who brushed aside Maccabi 3-0 in their best-of-five quarter-final. Continued...