Maccabi Tel Aviv's Yogev Ohayon 311.
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to make a statement when it hosts Real Madrid
at Nokia Arena in Euroleague action on Thursday night.
Maccabi has been
far from impressive this season, losing its Euroleague opener at Olimpia Milano
before edging Partizan Belgrade at home last week.
However, a convincing
win against Real’s star-studded roster, and Maccabi’s relative struggles will be
Tel Aviv has thus far looked nothing like the team
that reached the Euroleague final last season, but coach David Blatt is
confident it won’t be long before the yellow-and-blue dispels any doubts that it
can challenge on the continental front yet again.
“We know what we need
to do to reach the top levels, but it is of course all a question of time. We
hope it takes as little time as possible,” Blatt said on Wednesday.
comes to Nokia with a 2-0 record in Group C, thrashing Charleroi in Belgium
before beating Milano at home.
Madrid’s roster, which includes the likes
of Sergio Llull, Jaycee Carroll, Felipe Reyes and Ante Tomic, was already strong
before getting a significant boost due to the NBA lockout, with Dallas Mavericks
forward Rudy Fernandez joining until the lockout ends and the Oklahoma City
Thunder’s Serge Ibaka signing a two-month deal.
“Real has strengthened
its roster, and that comes after a season in which it reached the Final Four,”
Blatt said. “They have brought in players in almost every position and that
shows their ambition this season. But we also have plenty to offer, and this is
going to be a great game in every aspect.”
The match-up between Ibaka and
Sofoklis Schortsanitis will be one of the keys to the outcome of Thursday’s
encounter, while Maccabi will have to find a solution for Fernandez, who has
averaged 18 points in Real’s first two Euroleague games of the
“The team is moving in the right direction and showing many
positive things,” Madrid coach Pablo Laso said.
“We face a great team in
a very attractive and challenging game. We must pay attention to the ability of
the Maccabi players in one-on-one situations and their inside game with very
strong players like Schorsianitis, as well as versatile players like Blu and
Eliyahu who can open the game.
“It is a court known for its great
atmosphere and we all know how difficult it is to win on the road in a group as
hard as ours. We won away from home in our first game, and to do it again and
get to three victories would be a step forward to the Top 16.”
Eliyahu, Maccabi’s leading scorer so far in the Euroleague with 15.5 points per
game, will be one of the players Madrid targets on Thursday, but he is confident
Tel Aviv has what it takes to beat the Spaniards at Nokia.
“I think we
are the only team in Europe that has people stressing about the way it is
playing after just one defeat,” Eliyahu said.
“I think we are playing
well, but of course Real is a different level, and we are facing a very
difficult Euroleague game. A win over Real will be very important in our group
because we don’t want to find ourselves with two defeats at this stage of the
season. It will also be a significant victory as it will be against a very big
team, and hopefully we will be able to build on that.”