Real Madrid vs. Olympiacos: Only One Can Reach the Final.

By Themis Prokopiou

The time of judgment has arrived for Real Madrid and Olympiacos as they prepare to face each other in the Euroleague semifinals on May 24, 2024, at 19:00 UTC. The two teams met in last year’s final, where Real Madrid secured the Euroleague title with a two-pointer by S. Llull in the last second of the game. This year, Olympiacos is determined to achieve what it could not last year: to defeat Real Madrid and reach the final once again, where it will face the winner of the Panathinaikos vs. Fenerbahce game. But how easy will that be?

This year, Olympiacos is a team that relies primarily on its defense, as demonstrated in the playoffs against Barcelona. They managed to win two games on the road and ultimately reached the Final Four with a 3-2 series score. However, the current situation was somewhat different against Barcelona, a team that relied purely on technique rather than strength, which allowed Olympiacos to dominate in the post and secure an important qualification.

Real Madrid this season is regarded as the absolute favorite to win the Euroleague, having finished in first place in the regular season with 27 wins and just 7 losses overall. They currently have the most complete roster of all the teams, and that depth was evident on many occasions during the regular season. Against Olympiacos, they have secured 2 wins, one on the road and one at home, with scores of 71-77 and 90-85, respectively. As you can see, Olympiacos managed to contain Real in both games and lost by a small margin each time.

How will Olympiacos manage to qualify against Real Madrid?

After their recent performances against Barcelona, Olympiacos has shown great promise for the future. Unfortunately, they can’t afford to change their style of play, as George Bartzokas, the team’s coach, has established a certain style that seems to be working. However, this consistency gives the opponent an opportunity to read their strategy. When facing Real Madrid, who have a multifaceted game, this could pose a problem. A very positive development for Olympiacos is the return of N. Milutinov, whose performances have been outstanding, boosting the confidence of their frontline. He will be a key player in the match against Real, although he will face a similarly strong frontline with E. Tavares, V. Poirier, and G. Yabusele, who are known for their physical strength and good defense.

On the downside, one of Olympiacos’ standout players in the Playoffs, F. Petrousev, was injured in the championship game against Kolossos Rhodes and has been declared doubtful for the game against Real Madrid.

Traditionally this season, Real Madrid has allowed the guards and small forwards of opposing teams more freedom on the open court while maintaining tighter defense near the basket. This is a point that Olympiacos can exploit with players like I. Canaan, T. Walkup, A. Peters, and S. McKissic. If Olympiacos has a chance to qualify, which it does, it will have to rely on the perimeter scoring ability and the dynamics of these players more than it did against Barcelona.

It is clear that Olympiacos is capable of disrupting Real’s game with its strong defense and utilizing players who can handle stifling defenses to win the game and reach the Euroleague final.

How should Real Madrid play to reach the Euroleague final?

Real Madrid is a team that has proven they don’t rely on home-court advantage and are not particularly concerned about playing away from home. They have tremendous depth on their roster, with players capable of creating problems for any defense from any position on the floor. With a strong frontline and players with technical skills, they boast the best overall roster in the Euroleague right now. Against Olympiacos, they face a tough challenge, but they remain the favorite for the game and the favorite to win this year’s Euroleague title.

Real Madrid’s coach, Chus Mateo, has the ability to adapt his team’s offensive strategy during the game. He can exploit mismatches, deploy a perimeter scoring formation, or shift the focus to the bigs if he notices Olympiacos’ frontline struggling. This flexibility is a significant advantage against any opponent.

The Real Madrid players are in excellent form, as evidenced by their 3-0 sweep of Baskonia in the playoffs. Facundo Campazzo plays a pivotal role in the team, but even if Olympiacos manages to contain him, Real Madrid has several other options and skilled ball handlers like M. Hezonja and D. Musa, whose ability to score from the perimeter can pose significant problems for Olympiacos. Additionally, Real’s frontline can apply suffocating pressure, with E. Tavares, G. Yabusele, and V. Poirier able to dominate the rebounding battle and leave little room for Olympiacos to react. This is a team that can run and score quickly, surprising the opponent and preventing them from regrouping on defense.

However, a setback for Real Madrid is the absence of G. Deck, who is out for the next few games due to an injury and will not be able to help his team against Olympiacos.

Real Madrid should aim to build a safety margin early in the game, knowing that if Olympiacos stays close, they are capable of making runs that could give them the lead and possibly secure qualification.

Real Madrid vs. Olympiacos: Who will qualify for the Euroleague final?

This game is difficult to predict. Real Madrid, however, has the upper hand, although the precedents between the two teams and the passion shown by the players will also play a role. Personally, I was mistaken in judging that Olympiacos lacked sufficient mental reserves and energy against Barcelona, especially proven wrong in the last game at the Palau Blaugrana. Now, especially with both teams having had time to rest and regroup, we can expect to see a more passionate Olympiacos on the court, with even more energy and clearer focus.

Real Madrid, though favorites, are not invincible and will likely encounter difficulties against Olympiacos’ excellent defense, as seen in the regular season. If the match quickly favors Real Madrid, then they will likely secure qualification for the final without much trouble. However, if the game is tight and the teams remain close, the odds tilt in Olympiacos’ favor. This scenario suits Olympiacos, and they thrive in such conditions.

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Themis Prokopiou

By Themis Prokopiou

As an enthusiastic blogger, I take pride in crafting pages with high-quality content. Explore Euroleague news, predictions, and my personal views on this thrilling basketball institution.

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