The last two Euroleague champions meet in Istanbul

Round 2 of the current EuroLeague season will start on Thursday evening at 20:30 CET with the game played in the Sinan Erdem Sport Hall between Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Real Madrid.

After a disappointing 11th-place regular season finish, Efes went through a coaching change in the summer as Erdem Can replaced legendary Ergin Ataman. Also, 2022 league MVP Vasilje Micic left for the NBA and the Turkish team brought in Darius Thompson. The EuroLeague debut of the American guard for Efes was not great, as Efes was hammered by the new-look Barcelona in the Palau Blaugrana and Thompson scored only 2 points in 26 minutes of play. Of course, it’s still very early in the season and Efes has time to improve.

Real Madrid is the defending EuroLeague champion and most people consider the Blancos to be favourites to repeat the performance from last season and win the trophy again, which is a tough thing to achieve in a very balanced EuroLeague (Efes is the last team to do this, winning in 2021 and 2022). Real went through a few roster changes in the summer and some people would argue that this year’s team is even stronger than last season’s. This is mostly because of the return of Facundo Campazzo, as the Argentine is still one of the best point guards in Europe.

In the first round, the Blancos had an adamant game in Vitoria-Gasteiz but they managed to win by two points after a great 4th quarter. Guerschon Yabusele was the leading scorer for Real as the French returned to action for the first time since the fight against Partizan in last season’s playoffs after which he was suspended.

Before they depart to Istanbul, Real will host Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks today in the WiZink Center in an exhibition game. Chus Mateo will probably try to give minutes to every player in his squad and the team’s veterans will not be forced to play the important roles they are used to. It will be a celebration for the Real Madrid fans to see their team play against an NBA team and they will also be able to welcome Luka Doncic back to the WiZink Center for the first time since he left in 2018. Still, playing an extra game just two days before the match in Turkey could be a disadvantage for Real.

Imre Halasz

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