Maccabi Tel Aviv welcome CSKA Moscow on Thursday (21:05) in Euroleague action as the Yellow & Blue look to move closer to .500 and improve upon their 10-12 record. The Russian squad enter the game with a 14-9 record and will welcome their head coach Dimitrios Itoudis back to the sidelines for the contest in Israel.
Ioannis Sfairopoulos who was also out with COVID last week returned to the team on Monday for Maccabi’s State Cup quarterfinal win at Hapoel Gail Elyon missed the club’s two continental clashes at Zalgiris and Bayern Munich. Head of scouting Avi Even was the interim coach and split the games winning the first in Lithuania while falling in Germany.
“We play a game against a very good team,” Sfairopoulos said in his opening remarks. “They have a lot of players that can hurt us. We need to face them as a unit, because even if they have some injured players or recently-returned players, they always have the quality and the depth in the roster.”
Maccabi’s defensive play will be crucial in this matchup as they will try and stop one of the league’s most dangerous teams while being able to take advantage of the home crowd on the attack explained the bench boss.
“We want to play a good game and focus in defense to disorganize them. On offense, we must read the game, play smart and drive the game to where we feel comfortable with the help of our fans. We need to play defense and we showed last game that when we play good defense we have a chance to win every game that we play and not allow them to score easy baskets.
“They can score one on one and as a team. That is why we have to disorganize them and cut off their passing game. We have to find the mismatches and attack them. We expect that they will have a good game and they have the quality to do so. We have to find the player who will try to step up and play defense on him.”
Over at CSKA with Itoudis back in good health, Alexey Shved, Nikola Milutinov and Daniel Hackett will look to make life difficult for Maccabi even-though they will be missing some key pieces in Tel Aviv.
“It’s good to be back. I congratulate the coaching staff and the players for competitiveness in mind and the effort they have gave [in previous games]. I am not 100 per cent recovered but I miss the team, so I am here. Most important thing is the players to be healthy. We are shorthanded but we keep fighting, the team has played four overtimes in a short period of time.”
“We have another battle in front of us. Maccabi plays stronger, tougher on its home court with the help of their fans. We know the difficulties, we will see the situations and we will solve them one at a time.”
One of the Maccabi players who has had a recent good run is Derrick Williams. The former NBA forward has been playing in Europe over the past number of seasons and has started to come into his own over the past few weeks with the Yellow & Blue and knows that CSKA will be one tough foe.
“Our home record has been pretty good all season. We play CSKA now, one of the premier teams in the last years. Everybody is excited to play these games. We have to play with energy and passion. Things have not gone our way this last couple of weeks, but we are ready to play the game.”
Prior to the game Maccabi Tel Aviv will induct a pair of coaches, Tzvika Sherf and Pini Gershon to the club’s Hall of Fame. Sherf coached the Yellow & Blue over they course of 11 years and won 16 titles including 10 league championships and 6 State Cups while leading the club to 3 European Finals.
Gershon won back to back Euroleague titles in 2004 and 2005 along with the European championship in 2001. Over the course of 8 seasons, Gershon captured 17 titles in total for Maccabi Tel Aviv.