Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Barcelona to Yad Eliyahu on Tuesday night at 21:00 for a Euroleague Gameday 19 clash. The Yellow & Blue enter the contest with a 12-6 record after a road win over Alba Berlin while Barca sport a 13-5 record but have lost their last two continental games against Baskonia and EFES.
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Last time the two sides met, Barcelona had the upper hand with a dominant 96-73 victory over Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad as Nikola Mirotic starred with 25 points and 14 rebounds. But the coach explained that Barca does not rely on just one player, “Barcelona is a very good team with a lot of talented players. They lost the past two games so they will be extra motivated to win. We need to stick to our plan, play good defense, read the way they play, and offensively play our smart style of basketball.”
Scottie Wilbekin talked about how close both teams are in the standings which will make for an exciting clash for the fans, “Barcelona is one game ahead of us in the standings, so it would be huge for us to get this win. Right now, it’s really close at the top, every game is important and especially against a team like Barca, which is one of the best teams in the league. We want to do our best to win. We will have to be aggressive, try to keep them out of their comfort zone, not let them run their sets, and make them work for it.”
Jalen Reynolds who has fit in very nicely so far is also looking forward to Tuesday night’s big game, “Tomorrow is going to be a battle, they have good players, but we do too, and we work hard every day. It’s going to be a physical game, so we need to be locked in, I’m ready for the challenge.” The big man has certainly been ready for the challenge after scoring 17 points last week at Alba Berlin, “”I had to get ready to jump in the fire with this team, I didn’t have a lot of time to waste, so I had to be ready for my name to be called.”
Barcelona Coach Svetislav Pesic is well aware that Maccabi will be tough especially in Israel, “They won all home game, that means, as always, that Maccabi has a full arena with supporting fans from beginning to end. They are a team that deserves that help from the fans because this season they are playing great basketball. They had a few physical problems, but they just signed a couple of new players. They are a solid team, athletic and with a clear concept from their coach. A tough game awaits us.”
Coach Sfairopoulos is certainly happy to get back home after a trio of road games, “After three straight away games, it’s good to be back home in front of our fans, and with their significant support, we will fight hard for a positive result.”
Pau Ribas wants to make sure his team gets back to where he believes they belong, on the top of the standings after a couple of defeats, “Nothing better to win again and to show what kind of team we are than in a difficult place as in Tel Aviv. We want to win both games this week. A few days ago we led the standings and some people feel that we are in a crisis. We have to have a cold head, we are still in January and the team is fine. There are things to work on, but we are a good team.”
Victor Claver is most certainly hoping that the result this time around will be similar in Israel, “I hope so, but it will be a different game. They are a great team and they are playing great his season and playing in Tel Aviv is always hard. Every time I have played there with Barca and they played great last year. We have to respect our opponent and be ready to play every game. We can’t think that what we did here in Barcelona will be enough.” And what will be the keys for the visitors? “They are a team who like to play fast and have very good players who run and push the ball and play in transition we have to be aware of that. Even if we are winning and we have a lead in the box score we have to keep playing well because in Tel Aviv with the fans and the support that Maccabi has, it’s not easy. We have to be focused for the full 40 minutes because that is one of their strengths.:
However, Wilbekin stated why he thinks Maccabi will be one tough out and that November’s result won’t be repeated, “We are one of the toughest teams to play against because of how tough we play, we always play hard even if we were down a few games we fought back and came back to win. Our team is always fighting, we don’t give up, and it is definitely hard to play here having the best home-court advantage in the EuroLeague.”