Big-time players with designs on competing at the London Games return to the Euroleague wars this week when the Quarter-Finals get underway.
EuroBasket 2011 MVP Juan Carlos Navarro of Spain will lead Barcelona when they host Unics Kazan on Tuesday and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who could return to the Greek team for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) after pulling out of the side last summer, will be in the Maccabi Tel Aviv line-up when they go up against Panathinaikos in Greece.
Barca had planned on reaching the Final Four last season when they hosted the event but came up short against Panathinaikos in the last eight.
“Everyone of us has a thorn in his side from last season,” admitted Navarro, who has been bothered by a foot injury but should be at 100% for the game.
Maccabi, who did reach the Final Four but lost in the title game to Panathinaikos, are the underdogs going into their series with the Greens.
It’s going to be challenging for Schortsanitis, who returns home to face the team he went up against so many times while a player with Olympiacos.
“It’s my first game in Greece since I left,” he said.
“I expect a good atmosphere, the audience is enthusiastic.”
There is also the element of payback for Maccabi.
“We have bad memories against Panathinaikos and want to take sports revenge from last year’s Euroleague final,” the Greek said.