Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv had clinched a playoff berth and was fighting for home-court advantage in that stage when last season came to a sudden end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach Sfairopoulos hopes to have his squad playing even better this season, which they enter with their sights set high. Here's a look at five key games for Maccabi in 2020-21.
Round 1: The home-opener against ALBA
Maccabi was a serious force at home last season, compiling a 13-1 record at Menora Mivtachim Arena before action was prematurely ended. The team’s only home loss came against Real Madrid in Round 22, while high-profile victims included reigning champion CSKA Moscow, runaway leader Anadolu Efes Istanbul and powerful FC Barcelona Lassa. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos and his players would love to make their home venue a fortress again this season. The season starts on October 1 with a showdown against ALBA Berlin, which Maccabi has defeated in 11 of their last 12 clashes. Starting another winning streak as soon as possible would be the perfect way for Maccabi to build on the progress from last season.
Round 4: Coach Sfairopoulos visits Piraeus again
Returning to Peace and Friendship Stadium will always be special for Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos, who spent four seasons in charge of Olympiacos Piraeus between 2014 and 2018. He led the Reds to a pair of championship game appearances during that period before losing out in the title game against Real Madrid in 2015 and Fenerbahce Istanbul in 2017. Sfairopoulos is now showing clear signs of turning Maccabi into a legitimate contender and he would love to enjoy a repeat of the thumping 65-90 victory achieved with Maccabi in his first return to his old home arena last season.
Round 9: Giants clash in Madrid
This is the most repeated matchup in European basketball history, with the long line of memorable contests between the teams including a sensational overtime championship game which ended with Maccabi taking the title in 2014. The meeting in the Spanish capital in Round 2 of last season was the latest thriller between the teams; Real claimed an 86-85 victory with a last-second game-winning three-pointer from Jaycee Carroll. Real was the only team to beat Maccabi twice last season so revenge will be on Maccabi’s menu for this meeting at WiZink Center.
Round 25: Maccabi loves to play in the fashion capital
All sports fans instinctively reflect back on their team’s most recent great triumph while they wait for the good times to roll again and in that context, no fixture means more to Maccabi than the annual trip to Milan. Back in 2014, Maccabi triumphed in the playoffs over Milan after a stunning comeback victory in Game 1 at Mediolanum Forum and then returned to the same venue a month later to seal the latest of the club’s six continental crowns. More recent trips have been less fruitful with Maccabi losing its last two games in the fashion capital, but the arena still holds special memories for the Israeli champs.
Round 27: A rebounding test vs. CSKA
The boards will be crashed when Maccabi welcomes CSKA Moscow to Tel Aviv, with powerful rebounders Othello Hunter and Nikola Milutinov going head to head. They were the league's leading offensive rebounders last season, averaging 2.8 and 3.6 per game respectively. Hunter has the added incentive of going up against his former team, while Milutinov will attempt to overcome a familiar face in the shape of Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos after they were together at Olympiacos Piraeus for three seasons between 2015 and 2018.