Archrivals avoid group clash in Euroleague’s next round

Greek basketball rivals Panathinaikos and Olympiakos will not clash in the Euroleague’s second-round group play, a draw held yesterday in Barcelona determined. The competition’s 16 survivors, with the two Greek clubs included, were drawn into four groups. The top two sides of each group will advance to cross-group quarterfinal playoffs for berths at this season’s Final Four tournament to be held in Prague between April 28 and 30. Of the competition’s two Greek representatives, Panathinaikos appears to have the easier task. The Athens club was drawn in Group G with Turkish club Efes Pilsen, Benetton Treviso and Cibona. More likely than not, Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic – winner of five Euroleague titles with four different clubs, including Panathinaikos – will be more concerned about the availability of players rather than the capabilities of his group rivals. As he has proven before, Obradovic should find ways of solving any player shortages prompted by injury woes. If Panathinaikos captures top place in Group G, the Athens club will meet Group F’s second-place side in playoffs for a Final Four berth. Drawn into Group F were Lietuvos Rytas, CSKA Moscow, GHP Bamberg, and Tau Ceramica. Getting to the Final Four should be a far more difficult task for Olympiakos. The Greek team, drawn into Group D, will face Unicaja, which, along with Panathinaikos, has been the competition’s most consistent performer this season. Also drawn into Group D were Zalgiris Kaunas and Barcelona. Olympiakos will need to defeat Unicaja at home if the Piraeus club is to hope for at least second place in Group D. The Piraeus club meets again with Barcelona, which it had defeated at home in first-round group play. A repeat of this will be needed. A positive aspect of the draw for Olympiakos is that it begins its campaign with two games at home.

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