The first El Clasico of the 2021/22 season will take place at the Palau Blaugrana in Barcelona on Friday evening.
This usually is one of the most anticipated games of every season but what makes it even more special now is that the two teams share first place in the competition and are considered favourites to win the EuroLeague. Another detail that adds extra spice to the encounter is the exchange of players that took place in the summer between the two teams. Nicolas Laprovittola moved to Catalunya from Madrid, while Thomas Heurtel and Adam Hanga moved to the Spanish capital after a few years spent in Barcelona. In the case of Heurtel, the will to show his value against Barca is even bigger, as there was the famous airport incident in Istanbul last December, where he was left off the team plane after Barca played with Anadolu Efes. Barcelona said that the reason behind that decision was that Heurtel was negotiating a transfer to rivals Real Madrid, something that eventually happened in the summer. However, there were many criticisms for the way Barcelona handled that situation and many players and fans offered their support for Heurtel.
Barcelona won a big game in overtime last week against Efes, sweet revenge for the loss they suffered in last season’s EuroLeague final and they are on a 5 game winning streak in the EuroLeague. However, Sarunas Jasikevicius has some reasons to be worried. First of all, the Blaugrana team is missing some important players due to injury. Starting point guard Nick Calathes and two of their most important scoring options, Cory Higgins and Alex Abrines are all out. Because of this, Barca got back on the market and signed Australian guard Dante Exum, who spent the last few years in the NBA and is an incredible talent, but also prone to injuries. He signed a short term (three months) contract with the Catalans, so he will have to adapt and show his skills fast if he wants to finish the season in the EuroLeague. Another worry for Jasikevicius is that his team lost the last two home games played in the ACB League, against Valencia and just a few days ago against Baskonia.
The visitors of Real Madrid are also enjoying a great season, maybe even beyond expectations, considering they had to make important changes in their roster in the summer and they lost some key players who left to the NBA last season, like Campazzo, Deck and Garuba. Also, captain Felipe Reyes retired and Laprovittola left to Barca. But the new transfers proved to be great fits to Pablo Laso’s system and they have even improved the team compared to last season. The Blancos are on an 11 game winning streak in all competitions and the last game they lost was in October, in Kazan.