A rematch of last year's Euroleague semifinal takes place in Barcelona, Spain, when Winterthur FCB welcomes CSKA Moscow on Thursday at 20:45 CET. Both teams are already into the next round, as CSKA (10-2) is the Group C champion while Barcelona (8-4) needs either one more victory or an Aris loss to mathematically clinch second place. Barcelona will also be looking outside the group and thinking about the chance to become the best second-place team in the competition, which comes with the prize of top seeding in the upcoming Top 16, together with the group winners. A sense of revenge is in the air at Palau Blaugrana, as CSKA rallied from a 10-point deficit in last year's semifinals to beat Barcelona 75-84 behind 19 points each from J.R. Holden (9.3 ppg., 1.2 spg.) and Theodoros Papaloukas (9.9 ppg., 4.9 apg.). Both players will see extended playing time on Thursday, as David Vanterpool (7.3 ppg., 1.6 spg.) remains sidelined due to back spasms. CSKA also travelled without its top scorer, forward Matjaz Smodis (12.9 ppg., 43.9% 3FG), who is injured, too. The visitors have plenty firepower to spare, however. On the perimeter, star swingman Trajan Langdon (12.6 ppg., 4.7 rpg.) will share responsibility with Holden and Papaloukas. Veteran Zakhar Pashutin (44.4% 3FG) and youngsters Anton Ponkrashov 3.6 ppg.) and Nikita Kourbanov (2.3 ppg.) will offer some help at both wings. Papaloukas, who broke his 89-game streak of coming off the bench last week, will have a tough matchup against Jaka Lakovic (11.3 ppg.) and Roko-Leni Ukic (4.7 ppg., 42.9% 3FG), while Holden and Langdon will have a marquee shootout against Gianluca Basile (10.5 ppg., 44.4% 3FG) and Juan Carlos Navarro (18.5 ppg., 46.7% 3FG, 90.2% FT), the current Euroleague top scorer. Defensive ace Rodrigo De La Fuente (5 ppg., 50% 3FG) and shooting guard Roger Grimau (40% 3FG) will be ready to help Barcelona in many ways. With big man Mario Kasun (11.9 ppg.) still sidelined, Barcelona counts on Fran Vazquez (4.7 ppg.) and Denis Marconato (6.6 ppg., 4.6 rpg.) to share all minutes at the center spot. Vazquez is set to have a key matchup against David Andersen (10.1 ppg., 64.7% 3FG), while Marconato will test his rebounding skills against Aleksey Savrasenko (8.1 ppg., 68.8% 2FG) and Thomas Van den Spiegel (3.8 ppg.). Barcelona's inside defensive specialist, Jordi Trias (5.3 ppg., 5 rpg., 2.3 apg.), will also take his shot at CSKA's big men. With two of the best teams in Europe ready to measure each other before the Top 16, a top-quality game is guaranteed at historical Palau Blaugrana.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007