After Thursday's road victory in Kaunas, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv has another challenging task coming up on Tuesday night, hosting the first-ranked Barcelona (21:00, Live on Sport5 - Channel 55) in Menora Mivtachim Arena. Tuesday's matchup will mark another special occasion as 3000 fans will fill out the stands, including 100 medical staff members who got the invite to appreciate their efforts in the battle against COVID-19.
Giannis Sfairopoulos's squad will have to continue to manage another game without Othello Hunter, who's recovering from a foot injury. Sarunas Jasikevicius's unit is the only team that qualified for the EuroLeague playoffs holding an impressive 23:8 record. This past week, they added one of the greatest European players of all time, Pau Gasol, who returned to training in recent weeks and may make his renewed debut in Tel Aviv after not playing for nearly two years due to injury.
Since the start of the EuroLeague in 2000, Barca holds a 16:10 in the head-to-head matchup, but in the Yad Eliyahu arena, Maccabi leads 7:5, winning the last three contests. The previous game between the two sides provided a dramatic finish as the Yellow & Blue recorded a hard-fought 68:67 win over Barcelona in the Palau Blaugrana.
"We face the best team in the EuroLeague holding the best record, and they are playing the most stable basketball throughout the whole season", Said head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos at the pre-game press conference. "We know who they are, how to play oppose against them, and winning the first game in Barcelona doesn't mean anything for Tuesday".
"We need to be very concentrated to play with great effort and fight for every small detail to give us an advantage on the court. We need to face them as a whole and not individually, as they have quality in every position who can do a lot of damage".
Oz Blayzer spoke about what went right in the past meeting and what Maccabi needs to do to complete the series sweep: "In the last matchup, we beat them with a strong defensive effort stopping them on 67 points playing one of our best defensive games. We were very concentrated and focused on the gameplan, playing aggressively, and we want to show that again for another 40 minutes, follow our gameplan and try to perform another victory".
"Our home record with our crowd was great last season, and it's a huge advantage playing in front of a large group of fans the next couple of games", Related Angelo Caloiaro about the importance of the Yellow & Blue fans. "They are the best in the world, so it's a big home-court advantage, and it's exciting to have so much back".