The EuroLeague playoffs start next week and we have some very exciting matchups in these best-of-five series.
While every team that qualified for the playoffs proved throughout the season that it fully deserves to be among the top 8 teams in the continent, there is one matchup where we have a very clear favourite and it would be a surprise if we see more than three games in this series. I am talking about the matchup between FC Barcelona and Zalgiris Kaunas.
The Catalans finished the regular season in 2nd place (tied with 3rd placed Real Madrid) and on most betting sites the Blaugrana have the best odds of winning this year’s EuroLeague. There is huge pressure on Barca and on coach Jasikevicius to succeed this season as they were considered favourites in the past two years, but they lost in the 2021 Final and then in the Semifinals in 2022. Nothing less than winning the trophy will make Barca fans and the board happy. Also, there are some rumours that next season’s budget for the basketball section will be significantly lowered because of the difficult financial situation of the club. Winning the EuroLeague might change this and Barca should remain a powerhouse in European basketball.
On the other side, most experts did not expect Zalgiris to finish the regular season in the top 8, but Kazys Maksvytis and his team had an amazing year. The Lithuanians lost Keenan Evans to an injury in January. Evans was arguably their best player until that point, and the management replaced him with Isaiah Taylor, who just got released by Efes. The move proved to be successful, as Taylor fit in the system well and the Greens continued their streak of good results.
Despite the strong team chemistry and the amazing atmosphere created by the home fans in the Zalgirio Arena, I expect this series to be the only one that ends 3-0, in favour of heavy favourites Barcelona.
Photo credit: EuroLeague