A classic for history
The Euroleague final, at stake between Barça and Real Madrid
MADRID, 18 May. (EUROPA PRESS) -
Real Madrid and Barça meet this Friday (9:00 p.m.) in one of the Euroleague semifinals, a train wreck, of eternal rivals, in search of glory, most savored by the whites, resurrected by the cause at the time key of the course, that by the azulgranas, thirsty for redemption and guided by Jasikevicius.
The 'Final Four' of the top continental competition kicks off at the Stark Arena in Belgrade at 6:00 p.m. with Olympiacos - Anadolu Efes, and then the Clásico will serve as the second ticket to the final. It will be the fourth time that Madrid and Barça meet at this high-flying continental crossing, once for the Catalans (1996) and the next two for those from the capital (2013 and 2014).
The season seemed like this, with both teams dominating the Regular Phase, condemned to find themselves in an all or nothing situation, each clinging to their numbers, sensations or last sentences. There is no human way of predicting the outcome of a Classic that, whatever happens, will go straight into basketball history.
In Barcelona they trust that it will be the key to the third Euroleague, the coveted continental title that they have not won since 2010 and the confirmation of a project designed for this purpose. Real Madrid wants to win the eleventh in the same place where they raised the tenth four years ago, and in the process cut Jasikevicius's wings.
The Lithuanian coach arrived at the Palau almost two years ago and the euphoria and expectation he generated were justified in his first year, with the first ACB League in seven years, the Copa del Rey title and, albeit with bitterness, the final of the Euroleague. The jewel in the crown escaped from 'Saras' in Cologne against Efes.
However, the Barça of the droughts, the changes of technicians and the incomprehensible signings was left behind. "Jasikevicius gave me goosebumps at the break," Nikola Mirotic said after winning a new Cup last February against Madrid. The one from Kaunas is more than just blackboard and anger, it is the stimulus that pulled the club out of the hole it was in.
The culé uprising translates into 11 Clásicos won out of 14 that Jasikevicius has directed, two rivals who meet again every time there is a title at stake. Now, also in Europe, Barça hopes to continue the streak for the jackpot, without vertigo on stage or a rival with stripes and a long-standing know how to win.
Pablo Laso's men, before their seventh 'Final a Cuatro' and in search of their third Euroleague, arrive in Belgrade with more than enough morale to change that dynamic. Madrid knew how to get out of its crisis in March and April, recover game and sensations, nine wins in a row, and respect, with a 3-0 win over Maccabi in their 'playoff'.
Under the echoes of the end of the cycle, the criticism of Laso, of a burnt-out squad without resources, Madrid put on the batteries to fight for everything. In the last Classic, on April 10 at the Palau, the sparks flew, the pending accounts and the tension accumulated with the pique between Abalde and Mitoric, with both expelled.
Barça won in extra time, but the eternal rival got a little closer, as they tried to do in the Granada Cup. The champion of the Regular Phase left doubts in the 'playoff' against Bayern (3-2), but now he will have to take everything he learned with 'Saras' and perhaps something else, the unpredictability that a Clásico keeps for history.
The MVP of the season, Mirotic, Calathes and Laprovittola are key pieces for the Catalans to work. At Madrid, the strength lies more in the team, in the conviction that Laso shares with every player who wears white in the last decade. Tavares, Poirier, Llull or Rudy seem vital, such as being aggressive and biting in defense at the bar allowed by the referees.
BARÇA: Calathes, Laprovittola, Kuric, Mirotic and Sanli --possible starting five--, Higgins, Smits, Davies, Abrines, Martinez, Hayes Davies, Jokubaitis, Oriola.
REAL MADRID: Williams-Goss, Causeur, Deck, Yabusele and Tavares --possible starting five--; Heurtel, Hanga, Abalde, Randolph, Rudy Fernández, Poirier, Taylor, Llull, Thompkins.
--PAVILLION: Stark Arena.