Maccabi Tel Aviv Lampe 248.88.
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Tel Aviv will fight for top spot in Euroleague Group C on Thursday when it travels to the Eternal City to play one of the surprise teams of the season.
Lottomatica Roma has defied expectations by winning all three of its continental games, beating Lior Eliyahu's Caja Laboral at home before claiming impressive road victories at Russia's CSKA Moscow and Greece's Maroussi.
Despite last week's emphatic 71-54 victory over Moscow, Tel Aviv will therefore find itself the underdog as it enters the battle for supremacy in the Italian capital.
Roma coach Nando Gentila admitted that, while he is proud of his team's performances, he is concerned that Maccabi's multi-layered threats combined with his depleted squad will make winning a difficult task.
The most notable absentee will be injured Italian forward Angelo Gigli, with either Herve Toure or Andrea Crosariol expected to replace him in the starting line up alongside power forward Andre Hutson.
"We came with three wins from three games played, but the game with Maccabi will be the toughest yet as we will come with many injured players and with Hutson, who had a fever and didn't play last Sunday in the Italian championship," Gentila said.
"Maccabi is a great team and if we consider the problems we have in this
moment, it will be very difficult for us."
Confidence is high at Maccabi, which followed up its battering of CSKA
with an equally strong defeat of Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the BSL.
However, coach Pini Gershon knows Roma's results speak for themselves and is not taking last season's Italian league runner-up lightly.
"If you lead a Euroleague group without dropping a single game after three weeks, as Roma does right now, you can't be underestimated anymore by any team, no matter who you are," Gershon said.
The experienced Maccabi leader has inside knowledge of one of Lottomatica's most dangerous players, guard Ibrahim Jaaber who plays for the Bulgarian national team which Gershon coaches.
Jaaber is averaging 14.3 points per game and 4.7 rebounds in the Euroleague, and his face off against Maccabi's Doron Perkins is highly anticipated.
Gershon is totally focused on the victory. "Winning in Rome can turn out to be important, because Caja Laboral had already lost here, but we're Maccabi and we want to win every game everywhere, no matter what stage or situation it is," he said.
Tel Aviv center Yaniv Green was fired up for the game as he left for Italy with the team on Wednesday.
"Roma proved already how well they can play, and maybe it surprised a few people, but we're coming ready," Green said.
"It's also a road game, so we must be alert and as aggressive as possible. We want to win this game very much, and in order to do so we'll have to execute on court the things we worked on in the practices we had before and the ones to come before the tipoff."
But his opponents are equally focused, with Roma forward Kennedy Winston outlining the significance of the match-up.
"It's an important game for us because if we win, we will seriously put one foot in the Top 16. We have three wins and that is important for our standing, but Maccabi is a very strong team and even though we play on our court, it won't be easy at all, especially because we also have injury problems. But we will give our maximum to win," he said.
The other two games in Group C were played on Wednesday, with CSKA winning 79-69 at home against Olimpija Lublijana and Caja battering whipping boys Maroussi 103-86 in Greece.