One of the marquee duels of the EuroLeague in recent years will offer fans another chapter on Tuesday when Fenerbahce BEKO Istanbul (11-1) hosts CSKA Moscow (10-2) in a matchup between the current first- and second-placed teams in the standings. Fenerbahce is curently riding a winning streak of eight games, the last one against Milan at home, while CSKA is 2-2 in the last four games. However, the past does not count much when these two giants meet on the court, so get ready for one of the best basketball duels one can see anywhere.
Kostas Sloukas and Sergio Rodriguez, two superstar veterans who run their respective teams with mastery, will be pit against each other in Round 13. Sloukas averages 11.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists in starting seven of the 11 games he has played so far with Fenerbahce. Rodriguez stars with 10.9 points, 1.5 points and 5.5 assists off the bench for the guests. These two veterans combine for 18 EuroLeague seasons, and they understand what's at stake in a game like this as few point guards can.
It's two masters now
Coaches Zeljko Obradovic and Dimitris Itoudis go a long way back. Together, they won five EuroLeague titles with Panathinaikos Athens, where Obradovic had Itoudis as an assistant. Since they parted after leaving Athens, they have faced each other eight times while coaching Fenerbahce and CSKA, respectively. They are 4-4 so far, the record including a title win for Itoudis in May of 2016. Last season they shared dramatic regular season wins against each other, each coming on the other's court at the last second.
Keys to victory: Fenerbahce
Playing at home is always a good boost for Fenerbahce. But even if the team is notorious for feeding off the energy of its fans, to win against a team like CSKA, many more things will have to go well. The hosts will have to make good use of the best defense in the league (76.4 ppg.) to make up for the slightly lower offensive numbers. In this kind of game, individual talent and matchups can make the result go one way or the other, so expect Fenerbahce's defense to key on the likes of De Colo, Higgins, Rodriguez and Clyburn in order to keep the win in Istanbul.
Keys to victory: CSKA
The trip to Fenerbahce is one of the toughest in the league, and CSKA is not immune to that rule. The hosts are on a long winning streak and are playing at home, so CSKA will have to work as hard as ever to pull this one off. The guests could have an advantage on the glass as Fenerbahce features the second-weakest register in that aspect (29.6 rpg.). But against such a resourceful team like Fenerbahce, which shoots high percentages based on great ball movement, CSKA will have to pay special attention on defense, especially to decisive players like Jan Vesely, Luigi Datome and Ali Muhammad.
Fenerbahce: Tyler Ennis is still out with a broken leg.