Panathinaikos OPAP Athens was on pace to make the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year when the 2019-20 season came to a premature end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new head coach and several new faces, the Greens will look to keep their run alive. Here are five key games for the team along the way.
Round 2: The Derby of Eternal Enemies
There could not be a more exciting home opener for Panathinaikos fans than the Round 2 meeting against local rival Olympiacos Piraeus. Making a strong impression in the first home game of any season is always important for every team and that’s even more the case this year following the long wait for the resumption of action. Throw in the added incentive of claiming local bragging rights and it’s impossible to imagine a hotter baptism of fire for Coach Georgios Vovoras and his players.
Round 15: Papapetrou takes aim at ALBA
One of the best individual performances last season was delivered by Ioannis Papapetrou, who delivered a stunning collection of 39 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot in a double-overtime home loss against ALBA Berlin. The rematch takes place in Athens in Round 15 and Panathinaikos fans will hope for similar excellence from Papapetrou and similar levels of drama…but a different outcome.
Round 20: An end to the tough times at Fenerbahce?
Panathinaikos never succeeded in beating former Coach Zeljko Obradovic on his 'new' home floor, losing eight consecutive road games against Fenerbahce and failing to score more than 66 points on the last four visits. Last season’s trip never happened due to the shortening of the season, so with Obradovic now departed from the Turkish team, the Greens will head to Istanbul in January looking for their first away victory over Fenerbahce since February 2012.
Round 25: A measuring stick in Moscow
There has been some roster intermingling between Panathinaikos and CSKA Moscow, with the Greens signing Howard Sant-Roos from CSKA in the summer. Before that, former Panathinaikos playmaker Mike James penned a long-term deal in the Russian capital. Add to that the clash between CSKA’s new center, Nikola Milutinov, and Panathinaikos up-and-coming big man Georgios Papagiannis and this trip to Moscow could develop into an opportunity for the visitors to measure themselves against some of the best in the business.
Round 27: Calathes returns to Athens with Barcelona
The most iconic player on the Panathinaikos roster over the last few seasons has been Nick Calathes, who smashed records galore during his brilliant five-year stint as the backcourt general in Athens. In Round 27 Calathes will return to the Olympic Sports Center for the first time with his new club Barcelona and there is sure to be a rapturous reception for a man who made 211 EuroLeague appearances in the famous green jersey. But at this late stage of the season it is likely to be a pivotal game in the race for the playoffs and/or homecourt advantage, so expect the warm welcome to disappear as soon as the ball goes in the air.