EuroLeague away game

FCBB travels to the star ensemble of ZSKA Moscow

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For the second time this season, the Bayern basketball team will head to Russia on Wednesday morning, this time to the top dog and by farmost successful club in Eastern Europe: ZSKA Moscow, which has only failed to reach the EuroLeague Final Four twice in the past two decades and has won the trophy four times. They will welcome the Munich team on Thursday for the twelfth gameday of the top division.

Tip-off is at 18:30 on MagentaSport.

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When head coach Andrea Trinchieri talks about the opponent and its charisma, he highlights the impressive history of the former army sports club. "Actually, I only have to mention the name ZSKA, then you can already finish your assessment," the 53-year-old Italian begins, before elaborating on his respect: "They are always a candidate for the Final Four, for the trophy. They've had some injury problems, but now the squad is complete and the bar is once again higher for us this week. Milutinov, Grigonis and Shengelia are back, so in a normal situation I don't see many advantages for us. (...) We know it's going to be super tough, but we have to play with confidence and our best form. (...) We have to have a perfect performance and be very efficient in the offense." 

 

Darrun Hilliard on ZSKA Moskau
"ZSKA is simply a great team, with a well-known history, a great coach, great players and great budget."

Trinchieri's Bavarians fought their way back to the middle of the pack last week with two home wins over Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos after a tough first third of the season and now have a a 5:6 record. ZSKA is only one win better at 6-5, but there are reasons for that: After a 5-1 start, the three aforementioned Milutinov, Grigonis and Shengelia, among others, were missing for about a month, and only one game was won from games six to eleven. Last week, however, the team won 80-74 in Vítoria-Gasteiz, despite the change of coach there and the mood of optimism.

Milutinov and Shengelia back on board for the four-time champion

Last season, Center Nikola Milutinov (7ft) together with Tornike Shengelia was one of the most spectacular transfer packages put together in a long time but were injured again in the very first game; Forward Shengelia (15.6 ppg) leads the Moscow scoring together with the Finals MVP of 2019 Will Clyburn (15.9 ppg) despite only seven appearances so far. The top scorer in the last two appearances was German international Johannes Voigtmann (11.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg), who is once again playing a key role at ZSKA in his second year.

How exquisitely the squad is staffed is shown by the fact that this summer's transfer was Alexey Shved. The Russian star transferred from faded suburban rival Khimki and has recently been putting himself at the service of the team as a playmaker (3.8 apg, 9.8 ppg). Dane, Iffe Lundberg (9,5 ppg), Marius Grigonis, veteran Daniel Hackett  and Kenneth Faried, who has just been brought from the NBA, complete the fine selection of coach Dimitris Itoudis, who, as always, has nothing but winning the title as his mission.

At Bayern, playmaker Zan Mark Sisko, who has recovered from his Corona illness, finally returned to team training on Tuesday after almost five weeks out. "We'll have to see how he reacts, but I hope he can give us some reduced minutes this week or next," said coach Trinchieri.

Return for Hilliard and Hunter

Bayern's best scorer in the EuroLeague so far is Darrun Hilliard with 14.6 points per game, ahead of returnee Vladimir Lucic (12.9). For the US guard, it is a trip to visit old teammates and the town where he played for two years (10.6 and 8.7 ppg) before his move to Munich. His last appearance  there was at the Cologne Final Four, where Moscow narrowly lost 89-86 to eventual champion Efes Istanbul in the semifinals. Bayern center Othello Hunter even appeared twice in the final with ZSKA, triumphing with the Reds the following year after losing in the 2018 final. The American scored seven points in the title duel with Efes.

Darrun Hilliard in the EuroLeague-Final Four with ZSKA Moska (c) Albertini

"ZSKA is just a big team, with a well-known history, a great coach, great players and big budget," Hilliard said ahead of his return to the Megasport Arena. "There we need a complete game, to be very focused, extremely motivated and continue, as last time, to be better than the game before. Then we can look good."     

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