One sure thing during the second half of the decade has been the rise of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul to the elite of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Five consecutive Final Fours and a title in 2017 are the proof of Fenerbahce's arrival, and every new season promises great new things from this club. Here are five games to watch going into the new season.
Round 6: Playoffs rematch
Fenerbahce finished the last regular season with 25 wins, more than any EuroLeague team ever, but Zalgiris Kaunas managed to win Game 2 at Ulker Sports and Event Hall to steal home-court advantage in their playoff series. Facing both injury problems and a do-or-die situation, Fenerbahce played its best basketball of the season in Zalgirio Arena, getting back-to-back wins and making it to the Final Four. Sarunas Jasikevicius won his fourth and last EuroLeague title as a player with Obradovic as his head coach with Panathinaikos and 2009. Both teams also faced each other in the 2017 EuroLeague semifinals, in which Fenerbahce prevailed. Lots of recent history assures that sparks will fly every time these teams meet.
Round 13: The Bosphouros derby
Throughout last season, Fenerbahce and Efes stood in each other's way to several titles. It all started in the Turkish SuperCup, in which Efes beat Fenerbahce 65-62. Fenerbahce took revenge in the Turkish Cup championship game, defeating Efes 80-70. After that, Efes was a dominant force, downing Fenerbahce 73-92 in the EuroLeague semifinals and prevailing in a thrilling Turkish League finals that went down to Game 7. Efes beat Fenerbahce 89-74 to claim its first Turkish League title since 2009. Fenerbahce will be more motivated than ever to beat Efes this season At the same time, coming off its best-ever EuroLeague season, Efes is more confident than ever!
Round 14: The homecoming
This will always be a special game for Fenerbahce's Zeljko Obradovic, who coached Panathinaikos for 13 seasons, winning 23 official titles, including five EuroLeague crowns from 2000 to 2011. Obradovic has been very successful against his former team, too. After losing his four opening road games at Olympic Sports Center Athens since joining Fenerbahce in 2013, Obradovic has won six of his last seven games against Panathinaikos. That span includes having swept the Greek giant in the 2017 playoffs on the way to Fenerbahce's only EuroLeague title. Panathinaikos fans love Zeljko, so thrills are guaranteed.
Round 27: Plenty of ties
Fenerbahce has a lot of ties to Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, starting with Nikola Kalinic, who began his EuroLeague career while playing for the Serbian powerhouse. Fenerbahce also has plenty of players who worked for Zvezda's archrivals, Partizan NIS Belgrade. That list begins with 2018-19 EuroLeague MVP Jan Vesely, and now features a pair of Frenchmen, Joffrey Lauvergne and Leo Westermann. Of course, Zeljko Obradovic led Partizan to its only EuroLeague title almost three decades ago, in 1992. Fenerbahce has a team with both friends and sports enemies for Zvezda. And what can be more attractive than that?
Round 32: Champs are in town
For a team that wants to fight for first place in the regular-season standings, the games against other big powerhouses are critical. Fenerbahce ranked first after the last regular season, but CSKA ended up lifting the trophy. There is a lot of tradition between these teams, highlighted by the 2016 EuroLeague Championship Game, an overtime thriller for the ages in which CSKA lifted the trophy for the seventh time in club history. Most of the games between CSKA and Fenerbahce have been really close and fans know to expect a great thriller with outstanding players and really high intensity. This will be no different.