Bayern’s next challenge awaits in the form of Final Four candidates Maccabi

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Bayern are finally back home in the Audi Dome after a long stretch of away games that included three defeats. Head coach Oliver Kostic’s side will be faced with another challenge task as they get set to tip-off against an in-form Maccabi Tel Aviv team that currently sits in third. Tip-off against the Final Four candidates on Matchday 21 in the EuroLeague will be at 20:30 CET on Thursday (23.01.20) in the Audi Dome.

Bayern will also be playing at home in the BBL on Sunday (26.01.20, 18:00 CET) against Telekom Baskets Bonn, against who they suffered a surprise cup loss to in mid-October. Bayern are currently top of the league table with a sizable lead, despite suffering their first loss of the season.

Offensive rebounds and turnovers key against Wilbekin and Co.

Greek coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos took over the reins at the record champions from Isreal in November 2018, and recently extended his contract at Maccabi until 2023. In that time, the team has seen a steady upward trend, which remains the case in the current season. The 2014 EuroLeague champions started the season with narrow defeats against Khimki Moscow and Real Madrid, before going on to win 14 of their next 18 games (Record: 14-6). Most recently, Maccabi defeated ZSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona and Milan at home on the backs of a physical defensive showing and strong offensive shooting.

Meanwhile, Bayern are without a win in their last six games and are in last place in the EuroLeague. The team is looking to start anew by building on the positive moments from the matches in Athens, Piraeus and Ludwigsburg. “Maccabi are our next difficult opponent,” said Bayern’s Paul Zipser. “The first leg already showed us that they are very physical and bring a lot of energy to the court. We need to do ever better this time around.”

Assistant captain Vladimir Lucic, who sat out the match in Ludwigsburg, said that he hopes the atmosphere in the Audi Dome will be similar to the one from the match against ZSKA Moscow, which ended in a narrow defeat. “In our situation, you need to continue to work on yourself and keep fighting so that you get back to winning ways,” Lucic said. “We want to get that momentum back. If our fans see us fighting for the ball, then we will be able to use that home support to make it difficult for anyone to face us.”

The favourites from Israel are heading to Munich with plenty of firepower in their roster. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin (16.6 PPG) is already a familiar face in Munich and will be joined by recent ZSKA Moscow transfer Othello Hunter (10.2 PPG), as well as Tyler Dorsey (9.8 PPG) and Tarik Black (9.1 PPG). The latter made his last appearance during the 77-55 win over Bayern in their first meeting this season, and has been out with a knee injury since. But, Maccabi have recruited a replacement in the form of Jalen Reynolds (most recently played in China). Reynolds delivered a strong performance on his debut, with 17 points on the board in a win against Berlin. And, on Wednesday, Maccabi announced the signing of long-time NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire (37, 6’8”, last played in China).

“Maccabi are one of the best teams this year, and are a Final Four contender in my opinion,” said head coach Kostic. “You have to respect their development. However, we’re focused on our game. Last time, it was our opponent’s offensive rebounds and our turnovers that caused us problems. We’ve finally had some time to train and to work on those things. Nothing is given, we need to work hard for the full 40 minutes and believe in ourselves. I hope that our injury issues will soon be resolved and we will soon have a full roster to choose from.” Whether or not both Lucic and Nihad Djedovic will be fit to face Maccabi will have be a game day decision.

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