The first day of the new EuroLeague season schedules some very interesting games: the debut of Mike James in Monaco, last year’s biggest surprise Bayern visits one of the biggest disappointments of last season, Maccabi, while in Milan two championship contenders face-off, AX Armani Milan vs CSKA Moscow.
However, I think the game of the day will be played in the Spanish capital Madrid between Real and Efes, a rematch of last season’s playoff series that went to the decisive Game 5. The Turkish team ultimately won the series and later the Final 4, winning their first-ever EuroLeague trophy in their rich history.
Last season was a difficult one for Pablo Laso and his team. They had an experienced squad with great chemistry, players that played together for years, but were hit hard by injuries and also key players like Facundo Campazzo and Gabriel Deck left the team during the season to play in the NBA. This summer Real decided to bring in some new faces in key positions, so the team chemistry is a big question. However, they won the Spanish Supercup and are undefeated in the ACB league so far, playing great basketball even with some important players (Randolph, Thompkins) still missing. When all their players will be healthy and the new players get used to Laso’s system, they will be almost unstoppable.
On the other side, Efes is coming after a glorious season. We can say that they were the best team in Europe in the last two seasons, only Covid stopping them from winning the EuroLeague in 2020 too. In the summer there were rumors that the best backcourt of Europe will break up, both Micic and Larkin were linked with teams from the NBA, however, Efes managed to keep both of them. The only big change in their roster was the departure of Sertac Sanli to Barcelona. Ergin Ataman replaced Sanli with a very talented young Serbian player, Filip Petrusev (ABA League MVP last season), so Efes remains a title favourite this year too, the only question mark being their motivation after winning everything last year.
The betting sites have Real as favourites for this game (odds around 1.75- 1.85) as they play at home. I would say however that Efes might be the favorites in this game, because of their chemistry, something that Real is still working on.
Image credit: EuroLeague