Maccabi Tel Aviv in crucial Euro game

Mac TA will host Armani Milano in a game which the Israeli champions can not afford to lose.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv will host Armani Milano at the Nokia Arena on Thursday night in a game which the Israeli champions can not afford to lose. The two-time defending Euroleague winners, which split its first four games in Europe this season, is looking to recover from a disappointing loss to Efes Pilsen in Istanbul last week and will hope not to lose back-to-back Euroleague games for the first time in nearly three years. The game will mark a renewal of the traditional rivalry between the teams, a rivalry which includes two Maccabi losses in the continental title game in 1987 and 1988. Despite its poor start to the Euroleague season the yellow-and-blue is the highest scoring team in the Euroleague with 86 points per game. Its opponents score on average more than twenty points less then Maccabi with 65.5 points per game. Milano, which is in last place in Group B, has only won one of its first four games. The Italians will look to its veterans in this critical situation. Center Joseph Blair who averages 5.3 points and 5 rebounds per game, Giacomo Galanda who averages 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and point Guard Massimo Bulleri who averages 11.5 points and 3.2 assists per game are all expected to feature. Milano, who is making its first appearance in Europe's top competition in seven years, can at least comfort itself with the surprising play of forward Diego Fajardo who has averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the Euroleague. Fajardo is coming off an injury-plagued season and is playing in the Euroleague for the first time in his career this season. Most of the criticism for Tel-Aviv's disappointing start to the season has been directed at guard Will Solomon. The American is the joint Euroleague top scorer with 18.5 points per game, but disappointingly has averaged fewer than two assists per game. With Solomon still unable to run the offense properly, center Nikola Vujcic has stepped up his passing skills and has averaged a Euroleague leading 6 assists per game. Maccabi will also hope for a repeat performance by forward Maceo Baston who won the Euroleague week four MVP last week for his play in Istanbul. Maccabi is a firm favorite to win the game and with 19 wins in its last 20 games at the Nokia Arena, Milano will face an uphill battle to if they are to give the yellow-and-blue a run for its money.