Every season, as soon as the calendar comes out, there are certain games that fans circle on the calendar and rush to buy tickets for. For the defending champs, every game is of special interest because CSKA Moscow is certain to get the very best effort from every team it faces. Nonetheless, some games bring extra excitement due to history, rivalries and relationships. Here is a guide to five games to watch for CSKA in the 2019-20 season.
Round 3: The Leningradka Derby
CSKA will not face any of last season's other seven playoff teams until Round 8. In that stretch, it will also make its shortest "road trip" of the season, to face cross-town rival Khimki Moscow Region in the Leningradka Derby, so named for the highway that links the two clubs. These teams know each other well between their EuroLeague and VTB United League clashes, and even though CSKA has won eight of the last nine EuroLeague fixtures between them, several of those games were quite close. Local bragging rights will be on the line when they battle in this game.
Round 9: Back to the scene of glory
The trip to Fernando Buesa Arena to face KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz will be special for almost every man wearing a CSKA uniform. For nine players, it's a return to the site where they won the EuroLeague crown in May. For two others, Johannes Voigtmann and Darrun Hilliard, it's a return to the club they left over the summer to join the champions. Hilliard made his EuroLeague debut with Baskonia last season and Voigtmann spent three seasons there. CSKA and Baskonia have met in the playoffs four times since 2010 and now hold the record for most games between EuroLeague opponents this century with 39.
Round 16: Messina makes a return visit
Coach Ettore Messina is a popular figure in Moscow and he will make his coaching return to the Russian capital with AX Armani Exchange Milan in Round 16. Messina guided CSKA for six seasons over two stints and led the team to six Final Four appearances and a pair of EuroLeague crowns. Only two players - Kyle Hines and Andrey Vorontsevich - remain from Messina’s time at the club. CSKA has won eight straight games against Milan. The last time Milan beat CSKA in Russia was in October 2010.
Round 23: Championship game rematch
CSKA bested Anadolu Efes Istanbul in last season's Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game, and in this early February game they will clash in Moscow. This game will come six weeks after their first rematch in the Turkish metropolis. CSKA enters this season on a nine-game winning streak against Efes and is undefeated in 10 home games against the Turkish champs. Adding interest to the game will be new Efes forward Alec Peters facing his former team for the first time.
Round 32: A pivotal trip to face old friends
CSKA finishes the season with three straight road games, the first of which comes at Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Their last four games have been decided by a total of 10 points and always feature comebacks, game-winners and other such thrills. Their rivalry starts at the top, with head coaches Dimitris Itoudis of CSKA and Zeljko Obradovic of Fenerbahce having worked together for 13 years at Panathinaikos Athens. Former MVP Nando De Colo's move from Moscow to Istanbul adds spice to this game, which as it comes in Round 32 could easily impact on the playoff picture, too.