NEWS STORY. 21/05/2022. Edu Bueno
Real Madrid will be hoping to clinch the trophy they won four years ago in Belgrade as they take on Anadolu Efes for the first time in a final (7pm CET).
“One more!”, Roared Llull to his team-mates as they entered the dressing room after the stunning victory over Barcelona in the semi-finals. Only five minutes had elapsed, and Real Madrid were already thinking about this evening’s EuroLeague final when they take on Anadolu Efes. Pablo lariat‘s men will go in search of the club’s Undécima (eleventh European Cup) at the Stark Arena in Belgrade, the stadium where they clinched the Decima four years earlier, and add another trophy to the competition’s most decorated silverware list. They must first overcome the reigning champions, and the Turkish side, with Larkin and Micic in their ranks, will be playing in their third consecutive final.
This will be the first time these two sides go head-to-head in a EuroLeague final, despite facing each other several times over the past decade – Saturday’s meeting will be the 40th occasion. Madrid boast a record of 26 victories in comparison to Anadolu Efes’ 13, with both sides picking up a win each this season. The Whites ran out comfortable winners in Madrid in the opening round (82-69) and the Turks won in Istanbul (93-90) on matchday 31, despite lariat‘s charges leading for practically the entire game.
The road to the final
The madridistas go into the clash in a rich vein of form, both physically and psychologically, and do so on the back of a ten-game winning streak, without tasting defeat for over a month. The team had its share of ups and downs during the Regular Season, but came through the playoffs convincingly against Maccabi (3-0). On Thursday, the players put on a performance they can be proud of to fightback and defeat Barcelona, who topped the standings during most of the Regular Season (83-86).
Madrid have amassed 22 wins in this season’s competition and, including the Russian teams, have now won 26, a club record for a single season in the EuroLeague. Anadolu Efes have gone from strength to strength in the competition and after finishing sixth they eliminated Olimpia Milan with home-court advantage against them in the playoffs (1-3). In the semi-finals, they battled past Olympiacos with a last-second three-pointer from Micic (74-77).
Experience must be made to count
For the Whites, this will be their 19th final in their history, the fifth in the last 10 years, during lariat‘s time in charge. It will also be Llull‘s and Rudy‘s fifth. Of the four they have played in, they have been victorious in two, the most recent (Madrid 2015 and Belgrade 2018). Ataman’s troops have one title in their trophy cabinet, last year EuroLeague, secured after missing out on the 2019 final. The Turks have 11 players who featured in the final in Cologne. Larkin and Micic are their two superstars, but they also have a group of talented players such as Bryant, Pleiss, Dunston and Singleton.
Madrid boast a stronger defense and concede almost six points fewer on average than their opponents. They also have the edge in rebounding, where they will look to Tavares, Poirier, Yabusele and company. Two MVP’s in Llull vs Micic will go head-to-head. The captain will equal Felipe Reyes as the Madrid player who has played the most EuroLeague games. Williams-Goss, for Madrid, and Simon, for the Turks, are both confirmed absentees. One victory separates us from the Undécima.