One day ahead of the release of the 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season calendar on Tuesday, here's an advance look at the great games that will get the party started on October 11 and 12.
When the new 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season tips off on Thursday, October 11 and Friday, October 12, the opening-round slate of games guarantees an action-packed week of basketball with a series of interesting stories for each of the eight matchups on that Thursday and Friday.
Battle of the champions
Round 1 is highlighted by a clash of champions in the Spanish capital, where Real Madrid, the reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague kings, will collide against Darussafaka Istanbul, last season's 7DAYS EuroCup conquerer, in what is now a traditional opening-week game between the last winners of Europe's most elite competitions.
This is the fourth consecutive season that the two reigning champions collide in the opening week, but the first time in those clashes that the EuroLeague champion serves as the host. Coach Pablo Laso’s squad, which lifted its 10th EuroLeague trophy last May in Belgrade, will have the honor to open the season and start the title defense in front of its own fans.
In Darussafaka's last appearance at Wizink Arena, the visitors won Game 2 of the 2017 playoffs, only to eventually lose the series 3-1 to Madrid.
Debut, returns among three first-time clashes
A bit earlier the same Thursday evening, the first tipoff of the new EuroLeague season will take place in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica in a special night for Buducnost VOLI, the club's first Euroleague game in more than 15 years. Buducnost will host AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan in what is also the first game ever between those two clubs.
Round 1 will also serve as a momentous occasion for Herbalife Gran Canaria, which will make history by traveling to play the club's first EuroLeague game ever against Fenerbahce Istanbul, an opponent it has never faced before, and the most successful coach in the history of Europe, Zeljko Obradovic.
Yet another debut matchup marks the return to the competition of FC Bayern Munich, which will open the doors of the Audi Dome for the first time ever to Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
A string of classic matchup
But if there are some teams being introduced to each other for the first time, Round 1 also boasts some classic matchups that fans will mark on their calendars whether in the opening week or not.
CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona Lassa, who beat each other in semifinals on the way to titles in 2006 and 2010, respectively, and split wins in third-place games in 2013 and 2014, are part of the opening-night slate on Thursday, October 11.
Also on Thursday, Panathinaikos Athens welcomes Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in a rivalry that dates to the early 1970s and features several championship games, the last in 2011, not to mention one of the closest five-game playoff series in EuroLeague history a year later.
On Friday, Zalgiris Kaunas hosts KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz in a matchup of two teams with growing aspirations after both returned to the Final Four in the last three seasons after many years away.
Last but not least, on Friday, Khimki Moscow Region hosts Olympiacos Piraeus as visiting coach David Blatt, a former EuroLeague champion with Maccabi who won the EuroCup last season with Darussafaka, will debut for the Reds against Georgios Bartzokas, who is the last man to have led Olympiacos to the EuroLeague title, in 2013.