Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Gal Mekel.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Real Madrid at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night to begin a six-game stretch over the next 13 days that could either kickstart its campaign or set the alarm bells ringing.
Maccabi opened its BSL season with two consecutive wins, but dropped to a 99-97 defeat at Olimpia Milano in its Euroleague opener last week and is desperate not to fall to 0-2 despite the competition’s new format in which each of the 16 teams plays 30 regular season games before the top eight advance to the playoffs.
Less than 48 hours after the showdown with old rival Real, Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Holon in local league action on Saturday night, with Galatasaray to visit Yad Eliyahu in Euroleague play next Wednesday.
Maccabi will then fly to Lithuania to face Zalgiris Kaunas in continental action next Friday before playing Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby on October 31. The yellowand- blue caps the hectic run of games with a home contest against Barcelona on November 2, but new coach Erez Edelstein is fully focused on Barca’s bitter rival Real, as he is determined to take one game at a time.
Edelstein will have his three big guns at his disposal for the first time on Thursday.
Guard Andrew Goudelock missed almost the entire preseason with a thigh injury and his return coincided with forward Sonny Weems going down with a tear in his calf.
The two finally played some minutes together in Monday’s BSL win over Hapoel Eilat, but Devin Smith, who is in his sixth season at Maccabi, was kept out of the game, a practice Maccabi plans to follow in local league action for much of the season due to his history of knee injuries.
All three will play on Thursday, a much-needed boost against the powerful Madrid.
“Unlike Goudelock, Weems was part of our preseason, but the team doctor has still asked me to limit his minutes,” said Edelstein.
“We are terrified of sustaining more injuries and I hope everyone can remain healthy as we are facing a tough stretch of games. We will have to be at our best and play amazing defense to beat Real. They have talent, scoring ability and depth.”
Real opened its Euroleague season with an impressive 83-65 victory over Olympiacos.
Sergio Llull scored 22 points, while young star Luka Doncic netted 11 points for Pablo Laso’s roster, which still includes Spaniards Rudy Fernandez and Felipe Reyes, as well as the likes of Anthony Randolph, Gustavo Ayon and Jaycee Carroll.
“We are looking forward to an opportunity to show what we can do,” Goudelock told Maccabi Tel Aviv’s official podcast. “Real is a super talented team. When they get going offensively they are tough to stop.
But I think we will be fine as long as we stick to our game plan. As long as we are locked in and focused we are a tough team to beat and we are also playing at home.”