When last season came to a halt, FC Barcelona was in a good place to make its assault to the Final Four. This new season, the club has invested in even more talent with coach Sarunas Jasikevicius and point guard Nick Calathes, making the Barca roster a fearsome one. However, the road to the Final Four will be as hard as ever. Here are five key games for FC Barcelona.
Round 1: Revenge against the still reigning champ
An otherwise excellent home record for Barcelona last season was spoiled by one extremely large blemish: a Round 11 meeting with CSKA when the reigning champ rolled to a thumping 67-96 victory. To rub salt into the wounds, Barca even allowed Kyle Hines to score the only three-pointer of his career, and memories of that humiliating loss will still be fresh in the home team´s minds as they seek to start the new season – and the Sarunas Jasikevicius era – with a statement-making home win.
Round 5: El Clasico lands in Barcelona
Every Clasico carries special meaning, but this one will be even more eagerly awaited than usual after Barca was denied the opportunity to host Real last season as their scheduled Round 33 match-up was cancelled. Home teams have been dominant in recent Clasicos, winning five of the last six games, and the Palau Blaugrana fans are sure to play their part in trying to help Barca grab a victory in coach Jasikevicius’s first Clasico on the sidelines, which could have psychological repercussions well beyond the regular season.
Round 24: Barca wants to stop Larkin
Barcelona fans have not enjoyed seeing Shane Larkin over the last few years. The Efes sharpshooter has reserved some of his best performances for the Spanish giant, including a 26-points burst in their last meeting at the Palau Blaugrana. His efforts on that occasion included the last four points of the game from the foul line to secure an exciting 82-86 road win. Larkin also scored 30 and 20 points in the previous season´s playoffs games in Barcelona, so the home team will be hard pressed to slow down the electric scorer at one of his favorite venues.
Round 25: Coach Jasikevicius hosts former team
Hot on the heels of Efes’s visit, Barca will host another game which will have been marked in red and underlined in one man’s diary: newly appointed coach Sarunas Jasikevicius welcoming his former team Zalgiris Kaunas to the Palau Blaugrana. Of course, he isn’t the only man within Barca’s ranks who has close Zalgiris connections, and big man Brandon Davies will also be aiming to torment his old employers.
Round 32: Red, hot appointment in Tel Aviv
Barcelona had more reason than most to rue the early closure of last season as it headed into the enforced break on a red-hot run of nine straight victories. The last EuroLeague defeat for the Blaugrana, in fact, came way back in January, with a 92-85 defeat at Maccabi in Round 19. Turnovers were the chief tormentor for Barca on that occasion, committing 17 ball losses, and coach Jasikevicius will expect his players to deal better with the atmosphere of Menora Mivtachim Arena – a place he knows well – and the intensity of the home team's defense.