AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan was last in the EuroLeague Playoffs in 2014, but now enters its second season under Coach Simone Pianigiani and has several key members from last year's squad, which won a third of its road games, back. With that winning mentality and some new talent sprinkled in, Milan is eyeing a return to the playoffs. Here are some of the big games on its way.
Round 1: Milan's new experience
Milan can trace its history in elite European competitions back to the very beginning; it took part in the first Champion's Cup season back in 1958. Despite hundreds of games against the best teams on the continent, opening night this season will take Milan to a place it has never played before: against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in the capital of Montenegro. Sixty years after it debuted in European play, Milan will achieve another first on opening night.
Round 6: Ready for CSKA
Milan vanquished CSKA in their very first meeting, at the semifinals of the 1966 Final Four, en route to the first of its three EuroLeague crowns. More recently the relationship has been all about CSKA, which has defeated Milan on six straight occasions and with a margin of victory greater than 20 in half of them. This game comes at the tail end of a three-game Milan homestand and if Coach Pianigiani can finish it with a winning record and a triumph over mighty CSKA, it will be a signal to the rest of Europe that Milan is again seeking glory.
Round 14: Taking stock versus the Greens
This late December trip to face Panathinaikos in Athens is nearly at the midway point of the regular season and serves as a great time for the two teams to take stock of their performances. The key matchup in this game will be between a pair of guards who have starred for the other team. Milan signed Mike James away from the Greens, while Panathinaikos scorer Keith Langford spent two seasons in Milan and led the team to its last playoff appearance, in 2014, when he was both the Ford Trophy winner and a member of the All-EuroLeague First Team. Sparks will fly when these teams – and their ace guards – collide.
Round 19: Visiting the Final Four site
Last season Milan swept its regular season clashes against KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz and overall owns a 7-3 record against the club over the past five seasons. Whether another sweep is in the cards will be determined by the result of their Round 8 meeting in Milan, however, this game could be a determining factor not only in how both teams stack up in the playoff race, but whether Milan has realistic hopes of making a return trip to the Basque Country in those playoffs – or potentially for the 2019 Final Four at Fernando Buesa Arena.
Round 29: Home finale against friends
The closing stretch for Milan is a murders' row with games at CSKA and Real Madrid and home dates against Olympiacos Piraeus, Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce Istanbul all within three weeks. The final home game against Fener is also the penultimate game of the regular season and could be a must-win situation for Milan's playoff hopes. Fenerbahce is 8-0 against Milan in the last four seasons and arrives with two of Italy's biggest stars, Luigi Datome and Nicolo Melli, so Mediolanum Forum is sure to be rocking on this night.