CSKA Moscow is the 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague winner which means that it enters the 2020-21 season as the reigning champion. The road to a repeat will be full of stiff challenges as well as visits to the homes of several former players who helped it reach the top. Here are five key games for CSKA this season.
Round 3: Rivalry with Fenerbahce continues
The established force against the fast-rising power...CSKA’s meetings with Fenerbahce in the last few years have been the very essence of "old versus new". CSKA won their most important meeting, the 2016 championship game, and has also had the upper hand recently, winning three of the last four contests, including a convincing 88-70 home victory last season. The rivalry will enter a new chapter now following the departure of Zeljko Obradovic and Fenerbahce will be eager to show it can still compete with the current champion in this early-season meeting.
Round 11: A clash between the last two champs
CSKA took the title in 2016 and 2019. Real Madrid was the champion in 2015 and 2018...with four of the last five titles between them, it’s clear that nobody has dominated European basketball quite so much as these two storied teams. Their most recent meeting in Moscow was an unusually low-scoring affair, taken 60-55 by CSKA in February. But with two such offensively-minded units, we can expect that to be a rare exception and sparks will surely fly in Round 11.
Round 14: James, Larkin highlight championship game rematch
The rematch of the 2019 championship games will see Mike James go against Shane Larkin in a must-watch encounter for any basketball fan. These two are among the most dynamic and exciting players of recent years; CSKA star James was the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner in 2019 and Larkin was on track to dethrone him before the 2019-20 season was prematurely ended, so the individual battle between these two sharpshooters adds another element of intrigue to an already fascinating matchup.
Round 17: Hines, Messina welcome CSKA to Milan
Kyle Hines may dominate the headlines in Round 17 as he plays host to his former club for the first time, but this will also be a special occasion for another few Milan men with a central place in CSKA history; head coach Ettore Messina won EuroLeague crowns with CSKA in both 2006 and 2008 and was twice named Alexander Gomelskiy EuroLeague Coach of the Year in his time in the Russian capital. Playmaker Sergio Rodriguez was also on CSKA's 2019 championship squad. Messina is now aiming to guide Milan to similar heady heights and this will be the first time he welcomes his former club after their meeting in Italy last season was a late-season cancellation.
Round 26: CSKA looks to stop slide against the Reds
The Reds against the Red Army squad has been one of the most compelling showdowns in the EuroLeague over the last decade with Olympiacos Piraeus's memorable Final Four victories over CSKA in 2012, 2013, 2015. The Reds have dropped below those standards in recent years, but always find a way to trouble CSKA and won both games between the teams last season. Expect another intense battle when they meet at Peace and Friendship Stadium in Round 26 in new CSKA center Nikola Milutinov's first visit to Piraeus since his five-year term with the club ended over the summer.