Fenerbahçe can improve to a winning record tonight if they can grab a win on their trip to Malaga in the fifth round of the EuroLeague Top 16.
Tonight's opponents, Unicaja Malaga, have been in somewhat inconsistent form this season, struggling in the EuroLeague while dominating the domestic Spanish league, ahead of traditional giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. Fenerbahçe, on the other hand, have a 2-2 record. Malaga's Top 16 form has left a lot to be desired. The Spaniards have failed to win one of their opening four games, capped off last week with a near-30-point humbling at the hands of CSKA Moscow, although no team in the EuroLeague has managed to tame the Russians so far this year. Kostas Vasileiadis, Unicaja Malaga's shooting guard, said that they will be approaching tonight's game as a final considering their survival in the competition very much hangs in the balance. "We face this game as if it were a final," said the Greek swingman. "If we win, we can think about the next games that we will have to win. We have lost games that we could have won, like against Anadolu Efes, but we also played a good game against Olympiacos and we competed against Milan. So, now it is really paramount to win a game. Playing against such a great team as Fenerbahçe doesn't scare us, but motivates us. They are more offensive than defensive."
Malaga's coach Joan Plaza said that his team can no longer afford to slip up while taking the pressure of Fenerbahçe, who he claims have more "lives" than his side.
"It's obvious that we are happy about the overall performance of the team, but we cannot deny that our start to the Top 16 has not been good," said Plaza. "Against Fenerbahçe, we have to bear in mind that they have more options to make the playoffs or even the Final Four, but we don't. We have to face the game this way; they have more lives, we don't. We must win no matter what. We are practicing really well, everybody's focused and knows that we want to reach the seven wins we need in the Top 16; that's the mentality."
Fenerbahçe coach Zeljko Obradovic assured fans before the game that he would not be taking Malaga lightly, nor would he pay attention to their miserable Top 16 form.
"We play against Unicaja [Malaga], a team that is leading the Spanish League, and we must think about that," said Obradovic. "They are a very good team even though they are winless in the Top 16. They play well and we must prepare ourselves for a very difficult game." Elsewhere, Galatasaray will make some very minor history tonight when they take on Panathinaikos for the first time ever.
Both sides sit in the middle of Group E with two wins and two losses each.