Credit: BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas
Credit BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas

The old but noisy Palau Blaugrana is ready to host the battle of the battles. FC Barcelona (11-2) will receive Real Madrid (11-2) this Friday night at 9 pm CET in a game that will decide which team remains at the top of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings. 

The two Spanish powerhouses will measure their forces in what is expected to be the game of the season. 

Barcelona lost its last game in the ACB League, at home against Bitci Baskonia. Sarunas Jasikevicius did not hesitate to warn his players about his attitude after the game.

"Some players are in vacation mode. If you are not ready to play each 48 hours, you need to find another team", he said. 

Curiously, the Blaugrana came from an impressive win in Istanbul. They were able to pull out a thrilling game against Anadolu Efes. 

With injuries and an innovative line-up in the second half (with Nigel Hayes-Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Rolands Smits, and Brandon Davies at the same time on the court), Barcelona played an excellent second half. In the overtime, the Catalans controlled their emotions better. 

Real Madrid took the lead in the ACB League after a solid victory at Zaragoza. Pablo Laso recovered Anthony Randolph one year after his left Achilles injury. 

In their last EuroLeague game, the Blancos defeated Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv in a tight game decided by Guerschon Yabusele. Once again, Madrid showed character. Their indisputable identity. 

Thomas Heurtel was the key factor for Madrid. The French guard made two 3-pointers in the last five minutes, showing his clutch ability. 

Mirotic and Sanli stepping up

These kind of games are made for the superstars. They should step up, jump into the court and prove why they are game-changers. 

Everyone will be looking at Mirotic. The power-forward is performing great this season, again in the line to be named MVP of the season (he is averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game).

Points this season

Points made: 79,7
Accuracy: 47,1%
Place in standings: 6
Record max: 95
Record min: 58
Best scorer: Guerschon Yabusele

With Nick Calathes, Cory Higgins and Alex Abrines sidelined, he will need to grasp the nettle. 

Mirotic could not play the last four overtime minutes in Istanbul after being fouled out, which could be another spur for him. The Montenegrian is always hungry against his former team.

He shined in Madrid before going to the NBA, receiving some abuse on social media when he announced he was signing with Barcelona.

This is an old story for Mirotic, who is focused now on helping his team after a difficult personal moment back in January. It was tough, but he had to switch off during the summer in his country. 

Although Jasikevicius always demands the maximum to his players on both sides of the court, it will be interesting to see how he protects Mirotic in defense, as the no. 33 should be leading the Blaugranas offense. 

Next to Mirotic, Sertac Sanli is set to make his debut in the Clasico. He could not play the Supercup final due to an injury. 

Credit Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

After a struggling beginning of the season, the Turkish center has increased role in Barcelona. Barring injuries, he has gained rhythm, increasing his minutes (8 in the first four games, 14.5 in the last four).

Last week, in his return to Istanbul, he showed exactly what Jasikevicius asks for. Sanli opened the court, read the pick&pop situations well, and was unstoppable from the three-point line.

Smart, dynamic, and efficient. He appeared in a crucial moment, with Davies arguably being tired after the FIBA windows with Uganda. 

Both centers will have a hard test against Walter Tavares and Vincent Poirier, the best frontcourt in the EuroLeague without a shadow of a doubt. Get ready to see elbows. The fight is coming! 

Madrid's French crew

French has become a popular language in Madrid's locker room. With Heurtel and Yabusele additions this summer, the Spanish powerhouse has four players from France. 

Each one is important. Vincent Poirier is the best complement for Walter Tavares. The center gives Madrid more chances in the pick&roll game, having more touches. He is insurance near the rim, collecting rebounds easily (6.3 per game). 

Yabusele is probably one of the best signings of the season. He is leading Madrid offensively (12.3 points per game). His adaptation to the team was fast.

"We have been following him since we faced him for the first time. He is smart and knows what we want from him", said Laso a few weeks ago. 

Heurtel will return to Palau Blaugrana, where he was an idol just two years ago. In a dark period for FC Barcelona, the magician was named Spanish Cup MVP twice.

After not finding his room with Jasikevicius last year, he signed a one-year contract with Real Madrid. His role is clear, and he took it. He averages 9.1 points and 4.6 assists per game, and there's no doubt that he will be motivated against his former teammates. 

Credit BasketNews/Begum Unal

Last but not least, Fabien Causeur is taking advantage of injuries, playing almost 20 minutes per game, his best mark since the 2017-18 season, when he averaged 18:50 minutes in the EuroLeague Regular Season.

The French shooting guard shined in Villeurbanne with 25 points in just 17 minutes, including five 3-pointers. A solid player who accepted his role in the previous seasons, sometimes playing just in the second half.

Cold-blooded, his left hand is still one of the most efficient in the competition. 

Coaches corner 

Jasikevicius and Laso will face each other once again. Two good friends, who coincided in the court two decades ago, are now leading two of the greatest rosters in European basketball.

Their jobs are not easy. Coaching clubs like Barcelona and Madrid requires more than huge tactical knowledge. They need to manage deep rosters with high-talented players, combining opportunities for the youngsters and performing well. Fans are demanding, and each loss is considered, at some point, a disaster. 

Since the Lithuanian mastermind landed in Barcelona, their head-to-head is 6-3 for Saras (2-0 in the EuroLeague). 

Both coaches spoke a few hours before the Clasico, analyzing the game and giving their perspectives of what they expect. 

Jasikevicius began the press conference talking about how emotional the Clasico is.

"Our guys are excited for this type of game. We will need to control our emotions. We have to control them. But first, you have to fight for every centimeter on the court.

We have to fight for every centimeter and for those balls that can go either way and always give you four or five possessions extra, whether it's a ball on the floor or a rebound that belongs to no one", he said. 

Asked if some players are accumulating many minutes in this period of the season, Barcelona's coach explained how they try to control it. 

"We have talked about it this week with the staff. We are not using our best players like 30 minutes per game. We are managing quite well. Our idea is always to rotate", expressed Jasikevicius. 

Despite being on the top in the standings, Saras admitted he is not fully happy with how his team is playing.

"I know I should be happy because we are winning games, and the schedule is tough. We have injuries. But I know we can do it better," he added.

The Lithuanian coach also referred to last Barcelona's addition, Dante Exum. The Australian forward signed a three-month contract and could make his debut on Friday. 

"He did a good practice yesterday. He is in good shape. Let's see how he can help us, it is too soon to analyze it," Jasikevicius concluded. 

On the other hand, Laso analyzed the game and main Barcelona's strengths.

"All the games against them are important, but the season is still long. They are a solid and consistent team. Kyle Kuric can score outside, Nicolas Laprovittola is good in the pick&roll, Sanli has been performing at a high level late, Mirotic... They are a super-team", he began.

Adam Hanga and Heurtel will play against their former team, however, it doesn't disturb Laso. 

"They have already played against them, and I think they will play a lot more. Hopefully, with some more transcendent. I don't need to calm them. They will be motivated for sure", he said.

Asked if Madrid and Barcelona are the best teams in Europe right now, Laso replied politely. 

"As of now, I would say yes. We are at the top in both competitions. I watch them playing at a high level. I will not praise my team, but they are doing so well", the 54-year-old admitted.

The Spanish coach revealed Trey Thompkins, Alberto Abalde, and Carlos Alocen will not play. 

"Both teams have important absences, but the strength of a team lies in knowing how to rely on the available players," Laso concluded.

Head-to-head records

Friday's game will be the 29th Clasico in the EuroLeague this century. Barcelona and Madrid are now tied at 14 in the series after the Blaugrana sweep last season.

Things are radically different at Palau. Barcelona has won 10 of the 13 games played there. Actually, with Laso in Madrid, the Blancos won only twice (102-63 in 2016 and 101-74 in 2018).

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FC Barcelona
Real Madrid
1 Position
Field goals
5 Position
2 Position
1 Position
1 Position
2 Position
7 Position
4 Position

Teams leaders

Nikola  Mirotic
16,5 PTS
65% 2P%
53% 3P%
Guerschon  Yabusele
12,5 PTS
60% 2P%
36% 3P%
Nikola  Mirotic
5,5 REB
4,3 DREB
1,2 OREB
Walter  Tavares
7,2 REB
4,5 DREB
2,7 OREB
Nick  Calathes
5,7 As
2,1 TO
25 MIN
Thomas  Heurtel
4,9 As
1,9 TO
20 MIN