“There is no going back, no favourites, no injuries… or anything”

The Euroleague and Kaunas have presented the Final Four in the city centerin the area set aside for fans at this great event in Lithuania, perhaps the country that is most devoted to basketball in Europe. The coach and a star from each of the four classified teams were at the welcome ceremony, with the leading role for played at home, Sarunas Jasikevicius, a native of Kaunas. And with the surprise appearance of Sasha Vezenkov to receive the MVP of the season award. If there was a consensus on something among the eight protagonists of Olympiacos, Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and AS Monaco, it is that getting here is already a prize (“Who knows if there will be another opportunity?” Papanikolaou wondered.), and “not winning is not a failure”. “There are teams that have triumphed during the season and are not in Kaunas,” said Bartzokas and Chus Mateo. Jasikevicius, meanwhile, was calm, for the moment, delighted to gamble at home. For Matthew”Madrid arrives with a strong mentality“because there is no turning back, no favourites, no injuries… or anything”. Mike Jamesstar of AS Monaco, I was joking (or not so much) with “win at least a couple of games”. This Friday, Olympiacos-AS Monaco (5:00 p.m., Dazn) and Barcelona-Real Madrid (8:00 p.m., Dazn).

The four coaches and one player from each of the four teams participating in the Euroleague finals pose with the champion's trophy in Kaunas.
The four coaches and one player from each of the four teams participating in the Euroleague finals pose with the champion’s trophy in Kaunas.Enric FontcubertaEFE

Georgios Bartzokas, coach of Olympiacos

“For me it is key to instill a collective mentality in the team. The objective was to show that, after last year, we could return to the Final Four. Now I can’t let anyone in the team feel uncomfortable because of the pressure, that someone thinks that they have failed if they don’t win the cup. For me there are three different competitions: the regular season, the playoffs and the Final Four. If we give our all, we will be satisfied. In the Euroleague, not only the one who wins triumphs, others have also triumphed this year and have not reached this far. We will do everything possible to win, but not doing it I don’t think it’s a failure”.

“This is my fourth Final Four, but I can’t give much advice to Sasa Obradovic or Chus Mateo. Among my players last year there were many newcomers and He told them that they had to forget about their families, the media, the environment and maintain the routine of the previous matches, the closest thing to what they had done before, to avoid changes that would harm”.

Kostas Papanikolaou, Olympiacos forward

“We didn’t know if it was going to be a very good year in the regular phase or not until the end, because it has been a very competitive Euroleague. No one could be sure that everything would end so well (Olympiacos finished leading)”.

“You have to focus and try to be the same team that we have been throughout the season, use the same recipe that has worked. Keep working and bring our toughness and competitiveness to the track. The four teams that are here have completed a great season. You have to enjoy it, who knows if there will be another?”.

Sasa Obradovic, coach of AS Monaco

“We are going to have the role of underdogs, of underdogs, but fighting to the end. For the club, spending two years here fighting has been very good for us (last season they were eliminated in the fifth game of the playoff in Piraeus)”.

Mike James, guard-guard for AS Monaco

“For the club it is great to have come this far, I like to experience it with the team. ANDI hope to do well and win some games, at least a couple (smile). I don’t think there is a clear favourite, the four of us are at a similar level, it also seems difficult to beat a team three times this season (AS Monaco is 2-0 with Olympiacos in direct duels). It’s fun to listen to the fans (you can hear chants from the rival fans, the Olympiacos fans), I’m excited and ready to go”.

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Sarunas Jasikevicius, Barcelona coach

“I like the pressure, we hope to do well. It’s easier for me, the whole family is here and I don’t have to pay for plane tickets. Everything is very comfortable for me, I know the city and I have also been in many situations similar to this before. The first Final Four in Barcelona, ​​in 2003 (As a player), it was brutal, the club (the Barca) I wanted the title and it was hard for me to sleep during the previous week, I slept for an hour here, another there. Now it’s easier, I know what to expect, I have the routine and I face it more calmly”.

“We are 80 minutes from the title and the past no longer matters, neither does the future, the present matters. We come from very difficult games, like the one in Vitoria, and that has also gone well for us five days before the Final Four. But the most important thing is to face the semifinal well”.

“The difference between a classic in Spain and in Greece? In the end the noise is made by the media, we must try, as Bartzokas says, not to get out of the routine, to continue doing things the same as before”.

Tomas Satoransky, point guard for Barcelona

“This is my first Final Four and the feeling is incredible, a dream come true since I saw it as a child. As I did in 2006, in Prague, my city. The season has been fun, but now comes a big challenge. We focus on what matters, but we also appreciate having come this far. It is very important to have players who form a group, who give the team chemistry, I am very lucky to have these teammates in the dressing room. We are united and now we have to prove it on the track”.

“The team is very good, we feel that we have taken a step forward and we have been like this for several weeks. The team has improved, but the most important thing is to get to Friday in good shape, because we have to be mentally prepared. Difficult times will come and we will have to be ready. Going from less to more can help us a lot this season”.

Chus Mateo, coach of Real Madrid

“There is not just one person, or a few, with a very strong mentality at Real Madrid, it’s more like the club spiritwho never gives up. We have seen how the team has survived to get here, we are very proud of the players”.

“We did a great job during the regular season, I couldn’t agree more with coach Bartzokas. There are teams that are not here and they also deserve applause. It was very hard to qualify for the Final Four and now there is no going back, and there are no favourites, no injuries, nothing. The fact of getting here year after year is something important, regardless of whether you win or not. We came with a strong mentality and the most important thing is to enjoy the moment, because we have suffered trying to achieve a goal and now we are going to go all the way, hopefully we will reach the title. I take the drama out of any negative situation.”

Dzanan Musa, guard of Real Madrid

Our team is very inspired, we have good momentum now and we are going to try to maintain it., live in the moment, go play by play. It’s great to be able to talk to veterans like Llull, Rudy and Sergio Rodríguez, they help us day after day. I hope we can take advantage of his experience.”

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