Maccabi TA aiming for a boost in Barcelona

Maccabi approaches the game still reeling from last week's surprising loss to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius.

Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to kick start its season with a win Thursday night at Winterthur FC Barcelona in week 7 of Euroleague Group B. Maccabi (3-3) approaches the game still reeling from last week's surprising loss to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at the Nokia Arena 92-86. Tel Aviv also barely scraped through its BSL game against Ironi Ramat Gan on Sunday night and will look to shake off its recent poor form against the Spaniards. Barcelona (3-3), on the other hand, will come to the game encouraged after an important league win against archrivals Real Madrid over the weekend. Thursday night's game pits the last two Euroleague champs against each other. Barcelona were the winners in 2003 and Maccabi in '04 and '05. The yellow-and-blue has failed so far this season to recreate the form that saw it win two consecutive Euroleague titles and will face one of the deepest and most experienced lineups in the Europe against the Spaniards. Barcelona, which has been proclaimed by Maccabi coach Pini Gershon as "the team with the best roster in the Euroleague", has also suffered from a disappointing start to the season, only splitting its first six games. The Catalans are led by a powerful backcourt which includes electric playmaker, Shammond Williams (14.1 points per game and 4.1 assists per game), who was rumored to be joining Maccabi in the summer and will surely look to prove Tel Aviv's mistake in passing up on him and Italian guard Gianluca Basile (10.3 ppg, 3 apg). Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro (15.5 ppg) will be missing from the lineup due to a leg injury. Versatility is the key word to understand Barcelona's frontcourt. Mikalis Kakiouzis (12.1 ppg and five rebounds per game), can play at either forward spot, as he combines the post skills of a power forward with deep shooting range. One more key player will be Italian center Denis Marconato (7.6 and 6 rpg). The Italian is not only one of the best defensive centers in the competition, but also a solid rebounder who can also score in many ways, due to his strength and soft touch. Barcelona coach Dusko Ivanovic spoke about Maccabi to the Euroleague site. Ivanovic said, "Maccabi Tel Aviv is a very strong team. This team has plenty of players who know each other very well and are used to playing almost automatically. "They have many talents and all are splendid players. Maccabi is a physical team, with some great athletes on the roster, and it will be very difficult to get the win against them." Maccabi guard Will Solomon has taken a great deal of the blame for the yellow-and-blue's poor play this season. Answering questions by fans in the Euroleague site, he spoke frankly of his difficulties. "I feel that right now is one of the hardest points in my career, getting adjusted to a team that has already won two titles," Solomon said. "I am going through a new learning process, having to adjust to the city, to the team, to the coaching staff, and to the players. I am together with them every day going through the grind, the ups and downs. I'm trying to fit in, listen to everything the coaches‚ want and play hard to try to make my team better." Solomon also spoke freely about Maccabi's poor early season play. "We're going to have to play within ourselves, and go back to the basics," he added. "It's been a rough start so far. We need to re-group a little and stay focused in all our Euroleague games during the whole season. It's a long season, and we need to start afresh and match the intensity of every other team we face. I know that we have the talent, so if we can match their intensity, we'll be OK." Maccabi will hope for a third straight MVP caliber game by Croatian center Nikola Vujcic (14.5 ppg., 6.6 rpg., 5.5 apg) and for a breakout game by Anthony Parker (12.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.8 apg), who has yet to score more then 20 points in a game this season. If Parker will score 10 points or more against Barcelona he will overtake Nadav Henefeld for sixth place all-time among Maccabi scorers in Europe.