The second semifinal of the 2023 EuroLeague Final Four will bring fans a matchup between the two Spanish superpowers, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, a derby that is known as the El Clasico. It will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal in Belgrade when Real Madrid clinched the spot in the Final even though the Blaugrana were leading by 11 points at halftime. Los Blancos made an amazing comeback in the second half and won the game by 3 points, 86-83.
This EuroLeague season Real and Barca shared the wins, each winning on their home court in some very close games. In Round 2, the Catalans won 75-73 in the Palau Blaugrana, while in January (Round 21), Real won by 5 points after overtime. To further show the balance between the two teams, they finished the regular season with the exact same record, 23-11 with Barca finishing 2nd and Real 3rd (because Madrid won in overtime, Barca had the advantage in head-to-head games). In the ACB League Barcelona dominated both games, winning 97-82 at home and 87-78 in the Spanish capital.
Each year every Final Four game is very important and for the Real and Barca fans every time these two play a Clasico is huge, but the game this Friday is a must-win for both teams for many reasons. First, for both coaches, this game could decide their future. Some rumours say that Real Madrid already looks for options to replace Chus Mateo and Sergio Scariolo is their main target. However, a win on Friday against the eternal rivals could change the situation completely. Maybe an even bigger pressure is on the shoulders of Sarunas Jasikevicius. The Lithuanian is in his 3rd season as head coach of Barcelona and he couldn’t bring the EuroLeague trophy so far to Catalunya even though Barca was considered a favourite every season. Maybe the fact that the Final Four in held in his hometown Kaunas will bring luck to Saras and Barcelona will lift the trophy for the first time since 2010. Barca is also in a difficult economic situation and another failed attempt to win the EuroLeague could mean a smaller budget for the basketball section for next season.
Guerschon Yabusele is still suspended following the brawl in Game 2 of the quarter-finals against Partizan while center Vincent Poirier and Gabriel Deck will also miss the Final Four. On the other side, Jan Vesely recovered from injury and it seems he will be able to help Barca in the weekend.
In my opinion, Barca is the favourite to win and advance to the Final. However, Real has experienced players with a winning mentality and the bigger pressure is on Barca after what happened last season. Saras and his team cannot afford another failure and they have to play their best basketball to win.