Titans Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Crevna Zvezda clash on the global stage

Israeli team Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Serbian side KK Crvena Zvezda will tonight be duelling it out on the biggest stage in world basketball

Regarded by many as two of the top sides in their respective countries, Israeli team Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Serbian side KK Crvena Zvezda will tonight be duelling it out on the biggest stage in world basketball.

Both sides are currently reeling back from a surprising run of poor form, with Maccabi having lost four of their last five matches, and Zvezda only doing slightly better, managing to capture a mere two victories from their past 5 encounters. As a result, both teams are expected to pull out all the stops in tonight’s match-up so as to stem their recent loss of form and prevent themselves from falling even further down the standings.

Looking at their head-to-head history, Maccabi stand out as the slight favourites, having won 58% of the twelve matches that have been played between the two. However, recent stats tell a different story, since the Serbian side has emerged victorious in the three of the past five outings between the pair, all of which have taken place in the last three years. This includes the last meeting between the two back in March of this year, where Zvezda ran away with a comfortable victory of 92 to 76. Both of Maccabi ‘s victories, however, came when they were at home, and tonight it will be the Israeli team who will be hosting once more, giving them the advantage of a familiar stadium and decreased travelling time.

Speaking at a pre-match press conference, the Israeli side’s head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos praised his team’s fighting spirit, and the impact that star players like Scottie Wilbekin can have on their games.

“In crucial times in the match, personality is more important than tactics”, Sfairopoulos said, adding that while basketball is a team effort, certain players can turn the tide in vital moments.

Sfairopoulos acknowledged that the stakes are high for his team, insisting that every player must step up and show his worth in tonight’s match. Zvezda, meanwhile, are coming fresh from a seven-day break that has, according to coach Sasa Obradovic, allowed them to refresh and regroup after a difficult period in preperation for this game.

“We lacked, and that was especially visible in the last game, that energy against EFES when we wanted to play at a high pace, but we couldn't. I expect it to be different now,” Obradovic said.

Obradovic said that his side will not have an easy time of it tonight, noting that Maccabi are a top-level team who can compete with any other in Europe on their best day. However, he inisted that his players will be able to stem the Israeli tide, and dictate the game on their own terms. Zvezda will be missing the appearance of Langston Hall tonight, who is still recovering from injury and has only recently returned to training. Maccabi meanwhile, will be missing no major players, with both Di Bartolomeo and Omri Caspi having recently returned to the side in full fitness.