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Bayern basketball players face EuroLeague champion ZSKA Moscow

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After a one-hour bus ride through the congested Russian capital, the Bayern basketball team reached their next stay at Moscow's Beloruskaya district on Thursday morning. With a training session in the afternoon, the first since the training on Monday morning in the Audi Dome, the Munich team prepared for the EuroLeague duel on the 23rd gameday at defending champions ZSKA Moscow. The hosts won the road game in Berlin on Wednesday even without their two top scorers Mike James and Will Clyburn and are tied with league leader Barcelona with a 16-6 record.

TO THESCHEDULE

Bayern (13-9) are in good company in seventh place and close to fourth-place Real Madrid (14-8), but the massive logjam in the middle of the standings currently reaches as far as Maccabi Tel Aviv in twelfth (10-12). The game kicks off at 18:00 on Friday, with MagentaSport broadcasting at 17:45. Saturday morning the Munich delegation flies back on Sunday for a game at 18:00 for the BBL top game against second-place Crailsheim.

The defending champions won in Berlin even without James and Clyburn.

The Munich team will go into the tough game at ZSKA as underdogs, but by no means without high expectations, again expecting several thousand spectators at the Megasport Arena in view of very special Russian circumstances.

"We won the game we had to win at Khimki - now against ZSKA it will be more of a pleasure to compete with the best," said head coach Andrea Trinchieri. "We have nothing to lose, but we definitely want to be competitive against the best as well, as we always are."

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The Russian superteam (24 championships since 1992) qualified for 16 of the last 17 Final Four tournaments since 2003 and won the EuroLeague four times in that time.

ZSKA won their last game in Berlin despite the internal turmoil surrounding Mike James, the previous top scorer in the EuroLeague (20 ppg). The officially suspended US guard is thus expected to miss the game while Clyburn (14.1 ppg), Final Four MVP of 2019, at least made the trip to Berlin. He has been missing since Christmas due to a foot injury, but could be on the verge of a comeback.

 

"We have nothing to lose, but we definitely want to be competitive against the best, as always."

Cheftrainer Andrea Trinchieri

Given the class that abounds in the squad of the renewed title favorites, Trinchieri soberly conceded, "ZSKA is a powerhouse, they will find a solution, with Mike James or without him. They have so many outstanding players and will adapt to the situation, they have the weapons to do so."

Besides the individual qualities on offense, the strength on the boards stands out: the hosts are the best rebounding team in the league (37.1 rpg), but Bayern (33.7 rpg/5th) are no slouch in the area.
Star center Nikola Milutinov (9.5 ppg), who was signed from Olympiakos in the summer and is the best rebounder in the competition with almost nine rebounds per game (third: Jalen Reynolds, 6.5 rpg) as well as the equally expensive addition Tornike Shengelia (Baskonia/10.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg). ZSKA coach Dimitris Itoudis has plenty of stars at his disposal. In Berlin (71-68), Italian playmaker Daniel Hackett (13 points) played a great game but in the end, the top scorer was Shenghelia (20) while national player Johannes Voigtmann contributed five points.

Trinchieri's lineup doesn't have great depth given the absences of Vladimir Lucic (13.2 ppg) and Nihad Djedovic (6.9), Zan Mark Sisko, Robin Amaize and also youngster Matej Rudan. However, the remaining squad is well and ready for a tough game.

Bayern guard D.J. Seeley: "Wow, this is going to be a really tough game. Because we know how high quality ZSKA's squad is. They have an incredible number of players who can make a difference. We have to define ourselves on defense again and stay together as a team if we want to have a close game."

TO THE SCHEDULE

 


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