Zeljko returns to OAKA with Partizan

On Thursday evening Panathinaikos Athens will host Partizan Belgrade in the OAKA, a game that counts for Round 6 of the EuroLeague.

For two members of the Serbian squad this arena holds a special meaning. Zeljko Obradovic coached Panathinaikos between 1999 and 2012, and not surprisingly this period was the most successful in PAO’s history. Obradovic and Panathinaikos won 5 EuroLeague titles, 11 Greek Championships and 7 Greek Cups, making the greens probably the most successful team of the last decade, while Obradovic further strengthened his reputation as the best coach in European basketball.

Ioannis Papapetrou also has strong ties to Panathinaikos. Although the Greek small forward started his professional career with Olympiacos, he transferred to Panathinaikos in 2018 and in 4 years he became the captain of the team and won the Greek League 3 times. In 2021 he was also named the Greek League and Greek Cup MVP. He decided to part ways with PAO last summer to join Obradovic in Belgrade, but for sure the green and white fans will cheer for him too.

Panathinaikos is now coached by another Serbian, Dejan Radonjic, who took over the team in June. The Greek team made a lot of roster changes in the summer and the owner of the team promised to invest more money so that PAO can be a contender again. So far the team looks a little better than in the previous 2 years but is still far from a team that could have high aspirations. PAO has a 1-4 record after 5 rounds. It’s true that they suffered narrow defeats against two of the best teams in the league, Real and Monaco, but they also lost by almost 30 points in Berlin against Alba.

Meanwhile, after a 0-3 start Partizan won its last two games and the Serbians hope to climb further up in the standings as they seek a playoff spot this season.

Statistically, Partizan is the team that scores a lot more this season than PAO (86.4 vs 72.8 ppg), but also has a slightly worse defense (84.2 vs 81.6 points received per game).

Photo credit: EuroLeague

Imre Halasz