The 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season is going to be a basketball banquet for the fans, with an expanded field of 18 teams and more games than ever before. Here's a look at some of the most-awaited games on the continent!
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CSKA MOSCOW vs. ANADOLU EFES ISTANBUL: Replay of last season's finalists – Round 23
Not only did they put on a great battle in the last Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game, but both CSKA and Efes will come into the 2019-20 season as favorites to return to the Final Four. In CSKA's case, only a true gambler would doubt its status after its 16 Final Fours in 17 years, including four titles. Efes simply made the biggest jump in competition history, going from last place in the 2017-18 season to the title game last spring, and has kept most of the players who got it there. Besides the fact that every victory counts in the EuroLeague, there is no doubt that some games come with built-in message-sending, and the last of the regular season between last season's finalists is just such a showdown.
REAL MADRID vs. FC BARCELONA: El Clásico – Round 8
The first El Clásico of any EuroLeague season is a monument to anticipation well beyond the cities of Madrid and Barcelona. This time, Real will try to maintain the momentum of having won five of the last six editions of this marquee matchup. But Barcelona claimed their most recent duel, which came during the club's return to the EuroLeague playoffs last season. This is one of the biggest rivalries anywhere in sports. Regardless of the standings at any point of the season, Real playing Barcelona is one of the hottest tickets in town. It will be no different this season, especially with former Real star Nikola Mirotic wearing the jersey of Barcelona now.
PANATHINAIKOS OPAP ATHENS vs. OLYMPIACOS PIRAEUS: The Greek Derby – Round 12
Undeniably one of the hottest and most anticipated showdowns in world basketball. Olympiacos and Panathinaikos fans will circle this game as soon as they have the calendar in their hands. The Greek derby is played with all the intensity of a championship game – point by point, possession by possession. The winner will immediately gain momentum and the loser will need to recover from having spent a lot of energy and emotion in vain. Besides all the history, tradition and passion you can ask for in a legendary sports rivalry, these games are potential season-changers for both teams – another reason why they are so fascinating.
FENERBAHCE BEKO ISTANBUL vs. AX ARMANI EXCHANGE OLIMPIA MILAN: Messina vs. Obradovic – Round 21
One of the greatest rivalries in modern coaching is revisited when Fenerbahce's Zeljko Obradovic and Milan's Ettore Messina face off for the first time in more than five years. Not only have these two men won more EuroLeague titles this century than any other coaches, but they have played head-to-head in the championship game for three of them that were decided by a total of 10 points. This time, they lead last season's best offensive (Milan) and defensive (Fenerbahce) teams into battle. Messina's is not the only return. Milan forward James Nunnally will go against the team he won the EuroLeague title with in 2017, as well.
VALENCIA BASKET vs. CSKA MOSCOW: 2018-19 EC Champion vs. EL Champion – Round 1
The now-traditional clash between last season's EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup champions will help inaugurate the new season in Round 1 and offer the winner a little bit of bragging rights. These two teams have played just four times ever and have both won twice at home. In the 2010-11 season, Valencia won their first game against each other by 25 points in what was CSKA's worst season this century. In the 2017-18 season, CSKA returned the favor with a 27-point victory, but then suffered its sole loss in a 12-game stretch in overtime in Valencia. Both rosters will have changed somewhat significantly by opening day, so some new faces will help carry their torches into the new season.
FC BARCELONA vs FENERBAHCE BEKO ISTANBUL: The fans' choice - Round 9
The fans have spoken in a social media poll and it's tough to argue with their choice of a major game to anticipate this season. Barcelona and Fenerbahce have made plenty of headlines over the summer and their first meeting this season is must-see basketball. This game brews interest at many levels, starting with old friends and rivals at the head coaching positions: Svetislav Pesic of Barcelona and Zeljko Obradovic of Fenerbahce. Defending champs and former backcourt mates will square off for the first time; Barcelona added Cory Higgins from CSKA and Fenerbahce signed Nando De Colo. Zalgiris Kaunas's old pick-and-roll duo have also joined separate sides; Brandon Davies is now a Barcelona man and Leo Westermann is with Fenerbahce. Most important, these teams have set their sights high, making their first game a true test of great ambitions!