After we did the Euroleague preview by asking experts from the different countries representing the various Euroleague teams to give their opinion, we did the same exercise again to see what these experts think about the upcoming Euroleague Final Four. Jaime Martinez Lafargue has sent us his preview on Regal FC Barcelona from Spain. Jaime writes for Solobasket.com in Spain, one of our main sources for news from the ACB, as the website also features news in English. So here we go for Jaime’s preview.
As we stated in our prediction for BallinEurope at the beginning of the Euroleague, FC Barcelona should be one of the main contenders for this year’s title, and it is. One of the most talented rosters in Europe has arrived in the Promised Land and will fight for its second Euroleague title in Berlin. Led by the return of team alma mater Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona had to outduel two other ACB teams to reach its goal.
First, the point differential against Real Madrid gave Barcelona the first spot in the Top 16 group and homecourt advantage for the quarterfinals playoff. Then, a hard-fought five-game series against Tau Cerámica was decided in the fifth one at the Palau Blaugrana, after Dusko Ivanovic had stolen a win at his former home in game one. In short, it has not been an easy road to Berlin for Barça.
Xavi Pascual has been passing a continuous exam throughout the season. He was confirmed last summer as the team’s head coach, but, as always happens to every young coach with no previous experience at the highest level, he has had to prove from the very beginning that he was capable of assembling a winning team from the pieces he was given. And Pascual was failing the exam in the early months of competition, including a semifinal loss to Tau in the Spanish Cup. But management has been patient, keeping the coach around, and it has proven to be worthy.
FC Barcelona arrives in Berlin at the best possible moment of the season for the team and will face CSKA Moscow in Semifinal A of the Final Four. Of course, it won’t be easy, but we dare say that Barça is the favorite over CSKA by a 60/40 ratio. The team is working perfectly. Daniel Santiago and David Andersen have not been playing at the same level as the past few seasons, but they are two of the best centers in the competition; together with Fran Vázquez and Ersan Ilyasova, this makes up one of the most prolific, versatile frontcourt tandems in Europe. And the backcourt is also incredibly good.
Juan Carlos Navarro is showing that he’s back to win titles and will want the ball at crunch time. Gianluca Basile and Jaka Lakovic will sink one three-pointer after another if you leave them open: Basile shot 52.6% on his attempts from beyond the arc during the season, and the whole team is recording an incredible 38.4% (third in the season, while CSKA is tops at 41%). Completing the roster, Víctor Sada is the perfect playmaker, because he thinks of his teammates first. And Andre Barrett and Lubos Barton are self-confident when on the court, despite seeing little playing time.
All that said, it’s a Final Four, and FC Barcelona is just one of the four teams that will compete in Berlin, the Euroleague’s best four. Win two games and the glory is yours. The work is done, now it’s time to excel.
— written by Jaime Martinez Lafargue