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The crossroads of Jasikevicius and Chus Mateo in the Final Four of the Euroleague


Highlights: Barcelona coach Sarunas Jasikevicius plays his third consecutive Final Four. Real Madrid coach Chus Mateo debuts after a course of continuous vindication. The pair meet in the semifinal of the Final Four of the Euroleague (20.00, Dazn) Olympiacos and Monaco play the other duel at 17.00 (Zalgirio Arena, next to the Niémen River, in Kaunas, Lithuania) The match is the sixth duel between the two in this course.

The Barça coach plays his third consecutive final phase and Madrid debuts after a course of continuous vindication

Cold Kaunas awaits the hottest match. Barcelona and Real Madrid clash this Friday in the semifinal of the Final Four of the Euroleague (20.00, Dazn; Olympiacos and Monaco play the other duel at 17.00) in an appointment that contains many matches in one. On the track, Mirotic and Tavares concentrate the spotlight in the middle of a parade of stars. On the benches, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Chus Mateo carry the same demand even though they reach the great European stage by different paths.

For the Barça coach it is his third consecutive Final Four since he landed at Barça with the reconquest of the European Cup as a duty rather than a desire. He fell on the two previous occasions, in the final against Efes two years ago and in the semifinal against Madrid last season, victim of another white comeback. Saras now has a third shot in a symbolic place for the Lithuanian coach: in Kaunas he closed his career as a player and began his journey as a coach. And after eliminating the home team, Zalgiris, 3-0 in the quarterfinals, it now acts as host. In the imposing Zalgirio Arena, next to the Niémen River, the second most crowded court in the regular season of the Euroleague after the Stark Arena in Belgrade, Saras awaits a debutant in the fight for the continental crown. Chus Mateo keeps Madrid in the elite in his first season as first white coach after overcoming a tortuous five-legged series against Partizan Belgrade.

The sixth duel between the two in this course continues a sequence of equal forces. Madrid won the final of the Spanish Super Cup against Barça, Barça scored the two clashes in the ACB and in the Euroleague each team made use of its strength at home to tie the victory in its pavilion.

For Jasikevicius, another wink of the newspaper library. Just a week ago it was 20 years since the first Euroleague won by Barça (it celebrated a second in 2010). The Lithuanian base moved on the court to that team led by Bodiroga and directed by Pesic from the sidelines and that made the Palau Blaugrana explode in the final against Benetton Treviso. "I don't think much has changed since then," Saras, 47, says now. "I deal with it in a similar way. I still have the same illusion. I remember very well all the details of Sant Jordi and that's why I understand the situation of my players. Some are going to play their first final or have been in few. That's why I try to talk to them, but it's very difficult to say anything. You have to go through this. We have experienced players and as a coaching staff we have been in many finals. Winning is a mixture of many details and each one gives you a little point."

Jasikevicius was already a coach dressed as a player when he dribbled the ball. This is how the great myth of the benches, Zeljko Obradovic, remembers him, who had him at his command: "Because of his character, he spoke a lot to his teammates. One day I called him and said, 'Saras, you say 90% of what I say. You are right. But you can't talk to them the same way I can. Be careful.' He understood. He was one of their players with the freedom to do something different."

Chus Mateo also tried to soak up the genius when the Serbian arrived at Madrid in 1994 and the Spaniard directed in the lower categories. Today it is he who is facing the challenge of the European summit in a course always under the magnifying glass. The long shadow of Pablo Laso has accompanied Chus Mateo in a season of eternal vindication. Succeeding the most successful coach of the last decade in the White House has meant a daily examination and a continuous slide: titles of the last League and the Super Cup, fall in the semifinals of the Cup, third place in the regular phase of the Euroleague and now in the ACB ...

"I'm very happy and I keep downplaying these things. I try to de-dramatize what a Final Four is," explains Mateo, 54; "I would like to contribute a small grain of sand to achieve this title. We are so close and so far... We can only dream. Now there are no statistics, no excuses, no injuries and no fatigue. There's only one game against Barcelona." Opposite, the host Jasikevicius.

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Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2023-05-18

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