NEWS | 18/05/2018 | Edu Bueno (Belgrade) | PHOTOGRAPHER: Víctor CarreteroThe madridistas, who boast 9 titles, come up against the Russian side, who have 7, in a semi-final for the first time (9:00pm CEST).
Looking at the statistics suggests this could well have been the grand finale. Real Madrid and CSKA are the only two teams to eclipse the 100-mark in PIR (102.5 and 101.2) and boast the tournament's best offenses (CSKA, 89.2-point average; Real Madrid, 85.7). Doncic heads into the game as the Whites' leader (16.1 points and 4.4 assists), voted best young player and given a place in the All-Euroleague team. Alongside him, having netted 9.5 points on average in the play-offs since his return from injury, will be Sergio Llull.
Campazzo's potential return (averaging 15.1 points and 8.3 assists before his injury), plus the contribution of Carroll, Rudy and Taylor (set to make his 200th Real Madrid appearance) give the madridistas one of the competition's most powerful exterior lines. Their opposition, CSKA, should have De Colo back (who is one of the favourites for MVP alongside Doncic) as well as the threat posed on the outside by former madridista Sergio Rodríguez, Higgins and Clyburn, all of whom are in double digits for points scored.
That said, Real Madrid have more resources on the inside, with six players who would walk into any team's starting five. Itoudis' squad is not far behind though, and their interior game revolves around the quartet of Hines (also back from injury), Hunter, Vorontsevich and Kurbanov, a mix of physicality and versatility. In the two games during the Regular Season, Madrid won 82-69 at home while CSKA came out on top in Moscow (93-87).
The Whites are in the Final Four for the sixth time in eight years. They've won three of their last five semi-finals (twice against Barça in 12-13 and 13-14 and once against Fenerbahçe in the season that yielded La Novena). For CSKA, it's the seventh in a row (three wins and three defeats). Despite all the history between the two sides, they have never come face-to-face in the semi-finals. The Russians have won the last two Final Four meetings, but both came in the third-fourth-place play-off (1996 and 2017). Real Madrid already know how it feels to win a final against the team from Moscow: they did so in 1965 led by Ferrándiz. That occasion saw the Whites lift their second European Cup; 53 years on, Laso's charges will be hoping to make it through to what would be the 18th final in the club's history.