Perennial title contender CSKA Moscow is ready to launch another challenge in the 2021-22 season, with long-serving Head Coach Dimitris Itoudis keeping the bulk of last season’s successful squad intact while adding a few more key pieces. Here are some of the big games to look for as CSKA guns for glory once again – including an explosive start to the season.
Round 1: Immediate Milan rematch
The excitement starts immediately as CSKA gets the season underway with a trip to AX Armani Exchange Milan on the earliest opening night in competition history. It will be an immediate rematch of last season’s Third Place Game, which saw Milan claim an 83-73 victory, and another chance for CSKA to go up against former favorites Kyle Hines, Sergio Rodriguez and Ettore Messina. Despite that loss in May, CSKA will take confidence from its recent record in Milan after winning its last five games in the fashion capital, a sequence stretching back to 2010.
Round 2: The drama continues
If you thought CSKA’s start to the season could not get any tougher, think again: the Round 1 opener in Milan is directly followed by a trip to Istanbul for a meeting with its other recent Final Four opponent and the team which subsequently deposed CSKA as reigning champ, Anadolu Efes. These two teams, who also met in the 2019 title game, know each other extremely well but one wild card for CSKA could be Iffe Lundberg, who has made a great start to his EuroLeague career and scored 15 points in last season’s semifinal loss.
Round 11: Another thriller in Vitoria-Gasteiz?
If you’re looking for a guaranteed high-scoring thriller, CSKA’s annual encounters with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz are probably the safest bet. Last season’s 95-93 thriller in Baskonia’s favor was just one of many recent nail-biting encounters between the teams at Fernando Buesa Arena, which was also the venue for CSKA’s most recent title triumph in 2019. In total, nine of the last ten regular-season meetings between the teams have been settled by single-digit margins, with the winning team scoring at least 90 points on five occasions.
Round 15: Vorontsevich reunion in a new Russian derby
CSKA has a new cross-country derby to look forward to with the EuroLeague return of UNICS Kazan, last season’s runner-up in the 7DAYS EuroCup. The teams have only met twice before in the EuroLeague, with CSKA winning both games in the 2016-17 season, and the club from the capital will roll out a special welcome mat for one of its former favorites: Andrey Vorontsevich won three continental titles and made 274 EuroLeague appearances over 14 seasons with CSKA and signed on with UNICS in the summer.
Round 16: Grigonis back in Berlin
CSKA’s big summer signing Marius Grigonis will have an emotional return to face former club Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 14, but a week later the guard will head back to another old home venue and, indeed, the place where his European basketball adventure truly began. Grigonis spent the 2017-18 season with ALBA Berlin and averaged 11.6 points per game in the 7DAYS EuroCup during his first campaign in senior continental competition. And as the 2022 Final Four will also take place in the German capital, Grigonis will hope it’s not his only visit to his former home this season.