To overcome FC Barcelona's home dominance, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade will need to make history by notching its first victory at Palau Blaugrana.
Zvezda looks to finally conquer Palau Blaugrana
Friday of Round 7 features a very interesting showdown that might look like more of a mismatch at first sight.
Host FC Barcelona has never lost to Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade at Palau Blaugrana in seven showdowns between them. What's more, Barca is 5-1 so far this season and has won its three home games by an average of 21.3 points.
Zvezda (2-4), meanwhile, broke a four-game losing streak last week and wants to use its momentum under new head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos to try the improbable: take its first EuroLeague win this century in Barcelona. As a club, Zvezda is 0-7 in Barcelona, but has gotten closer to its goal lately; after losing its first three games there by 20.7 points per game, over the next four Zvezda was within 8.3 points on average.
The visitors have reasons to be optimistic this time. First, Zvezda now has more experienced players on its roster. Milos Teodosic, Joel Bolomboy, Mike Tobey, Rokas Giedraitis and Adam Hanga – though the latter is not due to play because of an injury – know what it takes to win at Palau Blaugrana over the years. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos led Olympiacos Piraeus past Barca in the 2015 playoffs and also won in Barcelona with Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv.
Hanga and Tobey are two of just five players who have worn both teams' jerseys in the EuroLeague. Hanga played for Barca for four years, reaching the 2021 EuroLeague Championship Game. Tobey wore Barca's jersey last season. Another member of this select group will be present in this game, in a special week for him. Barca forward Nikola Kalinic will play against his former team a couple of days after turning 32. He played for Zvezda in the 2014-15 and 2021-22 campaigns. Jaka Blazic and Stratos Perperoglou are the other two players who have played for both Barca and Zvezda. Perperoglou, Kalinic and Hanga have been EuroLeague champions, but not with either of the two squads.
Barca head coach Roger Grimau should have good memories when he faces Zvezda for the first time in his coaching career. He will have to work on stopping Teodosic, just like he did as a player in the 2010 EuroLeague Championship Game. Back then, Grimau was Barca's team captain and Teodosic the freshly crowned EuroLeague MVP, playing for Olympiacos. Barca ended up winning the game, 86-68, and Grimau lifted the trophy on top of the podium. To this date, Barca has not won the EuroLeague again.
Coach Grimau showed great resourcefulness last week. With playmakers Rokas Jokubaitis and Nico Laprovittola sidelined, he opted to use versatile forward Oriol Pauli as point guard. Pauli finished the game with 12 points and 4 rebounds in his first EuroLeague appearance this season.
Both teams had very different approaches on offense so far this season. Zvezda heavily relies on three-point shots, ranking second in attempts per game at 30.7. Barca takes way less shots from downtown (23.8) but is more affective, hitting 39.2% of them (Zvezda 33.2%). Barca takes almost one two-point shot per minute (39.5 per game), ranking third in scoring (83.7 ppg.) and leading in defensive boards (27.7) and PIR (102.2).
We have all the ingredients for a great game: talented veterans on both sides and a chance for Zvezda to make history.