By Nikos Varlas/ email@example.com
The basketball fiesta of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague continues at an endlessly fast pace and without a doubt one of the biggest games of Round 17 of the regular season is the one between FC Barcelona Lassa and Olympiacos Piraeus, which is going to take place on Thursday night at Palau Blaugrana!
Two giants of the modern era of the EuroLeague are going to go head to head and what makes the game even more important is the home team’s urgent need to win! Barcelona, with a 7-9 record, is only in 11th place in the standings (they share the same record with 10th-place Brose Bamberg), and is just one win away from teams that are currently playoff-bound in the top eight. Barcelona needs a positive result no matter what!
They are hosting Olympiacos, who have the second-best record so far in the regular season at 11-5, just one win behind CSKA Moscow (12-4), and are tied with Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz and Real Madrid. The Greek team knows how important an away win at Barcelona is and this is a clash in which the two gladiators have quite powerful incentives!
The matchup we are going to shed some light on is the one on the benches, between the two Greek coaches: Georgios Bartzokas vs. Ioannis Sfairopoulos! The element of intrigue becomes even more pronounced when we consider that in October of 2014 Sfairopoulos replaced Bartzokas on Olympiacos‘s bench.
Barcelona’s current coach, born in 1965, is marking his fifth season in the EuroLeague with four different teams: Maroussi, Olympiacos, Lokomotiv Krasnodar, and now he has the honor of guiding from the bench a club of Barcelona’s caliber. With a record of 76 wins and 47 defeats so far in his course in the league, the ultimate highlight of his career is winning the title at the Final Four in London, in 2013!
That trophy he conquered as Olympiacos’s coach in the only instance that a team triumphed at a Final Four of the EuroLeague by winning both the semifinal and the championship game by double-digit margins! That same season he also won the Alexander Gomelskiy EuroLeague Coach of the Year Award.
His rival on Thursday night and successor on the Olympiacos bench, Sfairopoulos, was born in 1967 and is in his third season as a EuroLeague head coach, all of them with Olympiacos. He has a record of 43 wins and 23 defeats in the top competition, and in 2015 he was a finalist at the Final Four in Madrid.
It’s worth noting that Sfairopoulos had worked as an assistant coach at Olympiacos from 2005 to 2008 and he was also Jonas Kazlauskas’s close associate at CSKA in the 2011-12 season. That’s when – together with the Lithuanian coach – they reached the championship game at the Final Four in Istanbul and fell prey to his current team, Olympiacos, with a big upset on Georgios Printezis’s buzzer-beater!
Furthermore, he’s worked as an assistant coach with the national team of Greece during two different periods, from 2001 to 2004 and from 2009 to 2010. Sfairopoulos has won two Greek League championships with Olympiacos, in 2015 and 2016.
Barcelona vs. Olympiacos and Bartzokas vs. Sfairopoulos, then, with two teams that have won two EuroLeague titles each from 2001 onwards! Their goal always is to get into the Final Four and they both have strong rosters, full of stars! Who’s going to win? Sit back and enjoy! #GameOn!