In just a few hours we will know who the champions of Euroleague for the 2013/14 season are. Real Madrid are the favourites but Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv will have the crowd on their side. Emmet Ryan makes his call.
The dramatic finish to Maccabi’s semi final win over CSKA Moscow was incredible. The Israelis gutted it out to snatch a win at the death. It’s hard to see such a miracle comeback happen a second time if they fall into a hole against Real Madrid.
The ACB champions delivered one of the most dominant displays in Final Four history as they routed Barcelona on Friday night. Pablo Laso knows that if his side can get ahead early, it’s tough for any team to keep up. Despite sweeping Maccabi in the Top 16, Real were pushed all the way in both games. The Tel Aviv club matches up well in most positions with RMB. Real have superior talent but not so much that their are any mismatches that could prove liabilities for Maccabi.
Fundamentally it comes down to how Maccabi slow Real’s offence. The only way to live with Madrid is to stop them scoring in bunches. Twice this season, Maccabi have managed that but still come up short. Still, it bodes well for a competitive match-up.]
Then there’s the not so insignificant factor if the crowd. This will be a home game for Maccabi. As I sat down to write this the blue and gold horde was already building up outisde. They will be loud and make this feel anything like anything but a neutral site game.
Real’s pursuit of history brings pressure to their squad. It’s been 19 long years since they were crownd champions of Europe. Every player in white knows the burden they carry but, based on their display against Barca, it looks as much as source of motivation as one of pressure.
For all of Maccabi’s heroics on Friday and their stout displays against Real this season, there is a lingering fear that this could be another runaway win for Real. Barring an absolute meltdown by Maccabi early on, that shouldn’t be the case but it’s still hard to see them toppling the uncrowned kings of the continent. Real will ascend and claim the throne.