Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv continues on Thursday fighting for a EuroLeague playoff berth against the third-seeded Real Madrid at Menora Mivtachim Arena (21:05, Live on Sport5 - Channel 55). The Yellow & Blue enter the 21st EuroLeague gameday after last week's home victory over Baskonia, holding a 9:11 record in the 2020/21 season, sitting just two games back of the 8th seed Zalgiris Kaunas.
Throughout history, Maccabi and Real have played against each other 61 times as the Spanish side holds a 38:23 edge. Giannis Sfairopoulos's squad looks to end a six-game losing skid against Los Blancos. Once again, Sandy Cohen will miss the matchup due to COVID-19. Real arrives in Tel Aviv without Anthony Randolph, who's out for the remainder of the season due to a torn Achilles tendon, while Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez are questionable.
"We face a very good team, their absences don't hurt their quality to play tough against every team", Said head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos at the pregame press conference. "We need to stay focused on our plan because if you make mistakes, Madrid will punish you quickly, thanks to their experience playing together. We'll need to disorganize their offense, play smart on the defensive end while playing our offensive style and read what their defense gives us".
The difference between the team in the first matchup to the one coming into tomorrow: "In Madrid, we had a moment we played well, but then when the margin rose over 10 points, we didn't react. Nowadays, having our full roster, we play much better together as a team, and everyone is involved. Then we weren't ready to play as it was too early. We are in a much better condition as a team to face a very good team like Real Madrid".
Angelo Caloiaro, who scored 12 points in the win last week against Baskonia, spoke about his offensive contribution: "I try to focus on being in the right spot, executing the things we practice. I'm just doing the best I can. The last time we played them, we came off a big win versus Zalgiris, and then we kind of laid an egg, played a bad overall, and in some way, that was a low point for us this season. Now we are playing the best basketball we've played all season, but at the same time, we can be better winning those close ones. We are still not where we want to be, but we are getting close".
Dragan Bender added about the challenges of the bigs: "This year in the EuroLeague, you have seven-footers shooting the ball, some very mobile big men who give a different kind of perspective, a different game. We play with big lineups, Madrid is now playing with huge lineups, so it's definitely a challenge and great to see. There's a beauty in playing all kinds of mismatches on the court, and it's great to be part of that and be part of that style of game".