Now, the Russian army team is assuredly fighting its way to the top, having won 21 out of its 22 ULEB matches. More than that, hosting the finals is Moscow, their native city, to offer inspiring support from crazed fans. Indicatively, host teams won the two previous European finals-the Barcelona, 2003, and the Maccabee of Tel Aviv, 2004.
The Israeli team comes as Russians' most formidable rival this time. It is the only on this contest to have a positive balance with the TsSKA. Russians are doing better, in this respect, than Spain's TAU Ceramica and the Greek Panathenaicos-and beat each of those two in the four latest meets.
To face Israelis in the decisive final, the TsSKA is first to win the Spanish and Greek teams in semifinals. Meanwhile, the two latter's coaches-Dusko Ivanovic and Zelko Obradovic, respectively-are very optimistic, so the Russians will have it hot.
The Spain-Russia match will be of special drama-laden interest. It will boil down to a duel of two coaches-Dusko Ivanovic and TsSKA's Dusan Ivkovic. Though Ivanovic regards Ivkovic as his teacher, he looks forward to giving the master a rebuff in Moscow.
Obradovic, Panathenaicos coach, regards the upcoming finals as a contest not only of four top-notch teams but of Europe's four best trainers. We shall know who proves best quite soon, May 8, when the fate of gold and bronze is settled.