Probably the most exciting game of Round 8 in the EuroLeague will be played on Thursday evening in the Sinan Erdem Sports Hall, where back-to-back champions Anadolu Efes will host FC Barcelona.
Efes has a 2-5 record after the first 7 games, but this bad start is not something unusual for them and for sure they will improve as the season progresses and they should reach their peak in the playoffs. The Turkish side improved their champion squad in the summer as Will Clyburn is already their second-best scorer after Vasilije Micic while Ante Zizic is also very useful under the basket. Achille Polonara is still trying to find his role in Istanbul but he certainly is a very good player too.
Another reason why Efes fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the bad start of the season is the absence of Shane Larkin. The American point guard didn’t play so far this season because of an injury and after he gets back Efes should start to look much better. Until Larkin returns, coach Ataman brought in another point guard, Isaiah Taylor. While he struggled in his first game against Bayern, Taylor had a great game last week against Real Madrid, finishing with 13 points, shooting 4/5 field goals and making all of his 5 free throws.
While Efes is on a 3-game losing streak, Barcelona won its last 3 games in the EuroLeague and the last 6 if we count the ACB League too. Barca is not playing spectacular, free-flowing basketball as Efes does for example, but coach Jasikevicius is more concerned about the results and so far Barca is doing well. The Catalan team made a few important roster changes in the summer and so far the new players have integrated well into the coach’s system. Just like Efes with Larkin, Barcelona also had to start the season without one of their main guys, as last season’s EuroLeague MVP Nikola Mirotic is yet to make his debut this season.
As expected, Efes scores more compared to Barca (82.1 vs 77.4), but the Blaugrana team is much better on defense (73.4 pts received vs 83.3). Efes is totally unpredictable in the regular season and if they play at their 100%, for sure they can beat Barca at home. However, Barca should be considered the favourite in this game if we look at the recent results and Larkin’s absence seems to affect Efes more than Barcelona playing without Mirotic.
Image: FC Barcelona noticias