Crvena Zvezda will host Real Madrid hoping for the playoff

Crvena Zvezda will host Real Madrid today in Belgrade, a game that counts for Round 20 of the EuroLeague.

The EuroLeague standings suffered some important changes after the Russian teams were banned from the competition (if nothing changes until March 21) and some teams, especially Bayern and Maccabi really benefited from this. In the new standings, Zvezda finds itself in 9th place, with a good chance to grab a playoff spot. This would give Nikola Kalinic and co. an opportunity to compete in a best of five series for a miraculous Final Four presence at home, in the Stark Arena (we can just imagine the atmosphere created by the Serbian fans if Zvezda plays in the Final Four on their home court).

Real Madrid kept second place in the standings after the changes, but they are really struggling lately. They lost their last three games in the EuroLeague, and they were all awful losses for a team considered to be a serious title contender. The Blancos lost in Istanbul against Fenerbahce by 15 points, followed by an 18 point home loss against eternal rivals Barcelona. But the most humiliating performance was the 21 point loss in Kaunas against Zalgiris. Most notably, Real struggles on the offensive end, scoring just 51, 68 and 47 points in these three encounters, something really unusual for the team that was known in the last 10 years for it’s amazing offensive production. In the past two weeks Pablo Laso’s team also lost the Copa del Rey final against Barca (scoring just 59 points) and Sunday came to a home defeat against Baskonia in the ACB League. Speaking of Laso, some rumours appeared about a possible coaching change if the bad results continue. Hopefully, this will not happen, as Laso is a true Real Madrid legend and an amazing coach.

We can expect a tightly contested game tonight in a very hot atmosphere, as both teams have things to prove to their fans. Zvezda lost 2 days ago against rivals Partizan in the ABA League and a win tonight vs Real could make their fans forget about the lost derby. Real also has to prove their recent bad form was just an accident and they can overcome the difficult situation. It will be also interesting how the Spanish side will perform on offense against a usually very aggressive Zvezda defense.

Imre Halasz

Image: Euroleague