PREVIEW! “Our fans are the 6th man even on the road” – Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Sfairopoulos ahead of Alba Berlin

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Maccabi Tel Aviv visit Alba Berlin this evening at 21:00 Israel time on Gameday 18 of Euroleague action. The Yellow & Blue enter the contest with a record of 11-6 good for 4th place in the standings, but Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad have lost two road games in a row to EFES and Zalgiris as they look to get back onto the winning track. Aito Garcia Reneses’s Berlin sit in 17th place with a 5-12 record after falling to Valencia last week.

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Although Maccabi has played solid basketball thus far this season, the team has suffered a number of injuries. Nate Wolters will be back for Sfairopoulos as will Scottie Wilbekin and Othello Hunter who missed the last Euroleague game in Zalgiris but played in Israeli league action against Nes Ziona earlier in the week. However, Omri Casspi, Tarik Black and John Dibartolomeo will all still be out for the Yellow & Blue while Aaron Jackson and Jalen Reynolds will both feature once again for Maccabi after having joined the club in time for last week’s loss at Zalgiris.

“They are still newcomers and they are only ten days with us,” explained Sfairopoulos. “They don’t participate in the Israeli league, so they can’t have more games to adjust to the system, but they are in a much better situation than the previous game. Every week they’ll be with us they’ll get better and better, that’s logical and normal.”

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Quincy Acy also spoke about the new additions, “Jackson is a great playmaker, a veteran, and we only got one game under our belt. I played one game against him in China, so I knew what he is capable of, another talent added to the team.”

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With the new recruits and the return of Nate Wolters, Sfairopoulos is certainly content, “Now this period is better for us, as long as we get the injured players back and the newcomers get into the team, we have more solutions, and this is really important. The primary goal is to win the games, secondary is to get everybody under our system. Will Nate Wolters play? I believe he will.”

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Elijah Bryant also chimed in, “We are definitely excited to have guys come back and help us on the floor.”

As the second round of games is about to begin, the club doesn’t want to rest on its laurels and will look to pick up where they left off said Acy, “It was a good start, but we are only halfway through. That was a good foundation to build on, but we need to keep growing from here. Alba is going to come out hard, ready to win. Everything is going to be tough from here on out.”

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“Not only the teams know each other more going into the second round, in a league like the EuroLeague you have high-level games with very good teams” said Sfairopoulos. “In an extended period, the team’s stance changes, once you can face them in their peek, and the next time, you can meet them in the exact opposite position, and that’s normal in such a long season.”

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There will be over 1,000 Maccabi fans in Berlin for the game, an unprecedented number for a regular season Euroleague clash away from home and coach Sfairopoulos knows how important their support is for the players, “I believe that any club can be champions in whatever league they play if you have a strong fan base. Before I came here, I knew Maccabi is that type of club, with a lot of fans that support the team. They are helping us in a significant way, we are thankful to them and happy they will be with us. They will be our sixth player even on an away game.”

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Alba Berlin coach Aito Garcia Reneses understands his club’s difficult predicament, “”We are now in a difficult situation, which forces us to think more about ourselves than about the opponent. Several injured players are coming back, which on one side is good news for us. But the reintegration takes time and because of that our game will look worse than before for the next games. Not only the returning players have to find their rhythm and shape again. Others, that had stepped in well and had a lot responsibility, now have to adjust to a new role.”

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