BERLIN (Reuters) - An impressive run to the Final Four and a flurry of individual awards are no guarantee that CSKA Moscow will win their seventh Euro league title, the club’s Greek coach Dimitris Itoudis told Reuters on Thursday.
CSKA won their last title in 2008 and have since lost two finals and four semis but remain the perennial favorites in Europe’s premier club competition.
They will again be the more fancied team in Friday’s opening semi-final against fellow Russians Lokomotiv Krasnodar, who defied the odds to reach the showpiece event in Berlin’s Merzedes-Benz Arena.
“If I could say for sure we would break the jinx and win the trophy I would have to be a magician and I am not a magician, I am just a coach,” Itoudis said after three of his players were presented with the season’s individual awards.
“It’s a great honor for the club to see them pick up these personal trophies but the most important thing is that they all said to me they were only interested in winning the title.”
CSKA’s French point guard Nando De Colo was voted the Euro league’s most valuable player, having also finished as the season’s top scorer, while power forward Kyle Hines was the best defensive player. Serbian play maker Milos Teodosic was named in the season’s best starting five.
“It shows that we have played the most entertaining basketball up to this point but we have to prove that over the weekend and I am confident that we can,” Teodosic told Reuters.
The ceremony, held in Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz square, drew dozens of basketball fans. They included many Fenerbahce Istanbul supporters, who are expected to throng the venue for Friday’s second semi-final with Spanish dark horses Laboral Kutxa Vitoria.
Fenerbahce’s Czech center Jan Vesely, a former Washington Wizards player who recovered from an achilles tendon injury just in time for the Final Four, acknowledged the Turkish giants should benefit from a massive fan turnout.
“They have given us fantastic support all season long and having so many of them at the Final Four should certainly put extra wind in our sails,” he told Reuters.
“We have had a great campaign but the two most difficult steps are ahead of us.”
Fenerbahce are aiming to become the first Turkish club to win the Euro league after finishing fourth in their maiden Final Four appearance last season.
Speaking about Fenerbahce’s ambitions after several years of heavy investment by the club’s owners and a massive overhaul during the close season, Vesely said: “We tried to create a team of success-hungry players complementing each other.”
“Those of us who survived the cut from last season saw a fourth-place finish as failure despite the tournament in Madrid being the club’s first Final Four,” he added.
“We are stronger than last season and the new arrivals have blended in seamlessly, but winning the Euro league is still going to be a massive task as the best four teams are here.”
Editing by Catherine Evans