A true derby: Fenerbahce hosting Virtus Bologna

Fenerbahce Istanbul will host Virtus Bologna on Thursday evening in the Ulker Sports and Events Hall in a game that counts for Round 23 of the current EuroLeague season.

It will be a battle between two teams that fight for the homecourt advantage in the playoffs and have real chances to finish in the Top 4. Virtus is currently tied with Barcelona for 2nd place in the standings and very few people would have predicted this in September when the Italian team parted ways with head coach Sergio Scariolo just before the start of the season. Scariolo criticized the quality of the roster in a press conference and just a few days later he was replaced by Virtus with Luca Banchi, who guided Latvia to a miraculous 5th place finish in the World Cup just a couple of weeks before. What Banchi achieved at Virtus so far can also be considered miraculous and they are no longer clear underdogs against any opponent in the EuroLeague. They did have a tough stretch of three consecutive defeats two weeks ago (one defeat in the Italian league and they lost both games in the EuroLeague double week), but in Round 22 they beat Asvel after a superb fourth quarter and their confidence is high again.

Fenerbahce also went through a coaching change later in the season. After starting the campaign with a 6-7 record, the Turkish team decided to replace Dimitris Itoudis with Sarunas Jasikevicius, a former player of the yellow-navy-blue team. It seems that the coaching change brought a positive impact on the team, as Fener won 13 of the 15 games in all competitions played under the guidance of the Lithuanian coach. However, in the last round of the EuroLeague they suffered a heavy defeat in Kaunas against Zalgiris and Jasikevicius publicly said that he was not happy with the level of professionalism of some of his players. After all, the 5th place in the EuroLeague where Fener sits right now and the 11th place is separated by only two wins, so he needs to make sure that his players won’t lose their focus in this very important stage of the season.

Imre Halasz

Image credit: EuroLeague