This clash of perennial title contenders is always must-see basketball and it is heightened this week as both teams are hungrier than ever for wins. CSKA has lost two of its last three games and Coach Itoudis is still working on the lineup with center Kosta Koufos having made his debut last week and Final Four MVP WIll Clyburn out for the season. Fenerbahce is off to its worst start of the decade at 2-5, but claimed an uplifting victory over FC Bayern Munich last week. The game will be Nando De Colo's first against his former club after playing the past five season with CSKA and leading the team to a pair of EuroLeague titles.
It will be the reigning Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner Mike James playing a former winner of the trophy and this season's top scorer, Nando De Colo. CSKA signed James this summer to fill the role vacated by De Colo when his contract ended and he went to Istanbul. Both have taken charge quickly in their new homes; James has posted 18.4 points and 4.9 assists per game for CSKA and De Colo has been worth 20.9 points for Fenerbahce.
Coaches, partners, friends
Two of the premier coaches in the game, Zeljko Obradovic and Dimitris Itoudis were joined at the hip for 13 seasons at Panathinaikos Athens during which they led the club to unprecedented success. With Obradovic the master and Itoudis his right-hand man, the led the Greens to five EuroLeague crowns. Since they split up, Itoudis has proven to be his mentor's equal with two EuroLeague trophies of his own in the past four seasons. The two men remain close and their tactical battles on the sidelines make for cutting-edge basketball.
Fenerbahce's Moscow success
Fenerbahce will surely feel at home in Moscow and not just because Nando De Colo spent the previous five seasons there. Fenerbahce has won four of its last five road games against CSKA. Some of those have been classic duels, such as the 93-95 overtime win in November 2017 when Jan Vesely scored a career-high 31 points or a come-from-behind 74-78 victory in December 2013 in which Bojan Bogdanovic scored 18.
Keys to victory: CSKA
Scoring in the paint has been a CSKA strength and a Fenerbahce weakness this season and it is one the hosts would be wise to capitalize on. CSKA is among the leaders in both two-point shooting (54.7%) and opponents two-point shooting (48.5%). Fenerbahce is among the worst in both categories (47.8% shooting, 53.5% for opponents). If Kyle Hines and co. can continue that way, it will help CSKA.
Keys to victory: Fenerbahce
Fenerbahce has been getting beaten on the boards and must put a stop to that, especially in a tough road game against CSKA (37.0 rpg.). Despite the presence of Jan Vesely, Derrick Williams, Ahmet Duverioglu and Joffrey Lauvergne, Fenerbahce is last with 28.6 rebounds per game. Stopping CSKA from getting easy second-chance baskets and turning some of those defensive boards into transition points would benefit Fenerbahce greatly.