Text size

Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Effes Pilsen tonight in Istanbul in its final exhibition game before next week's Euroleague Final Four in Moscow.

"Pilsen has the best defense in the Euroleague and, as we face a strong defensive team in the semifinal [Panathaikos], the game will be an excellent test for us," said Maccabi assistant coach Ya'akov Gino.

Maccabi center Nikola Vujcic said in an interview with the Euroleague yesterday that Maccabi's players were taking the exhibition games ahead of the Final Four very seriously. "Our league in Israel is not so strong this season, so we need these kinds of games to keep sharp. We did it last year and it helped us to be in good shape for the Final Four," Vujcic said.

In an interview with Tel Aviv weekly Ha'ir, Panathinaikos captain Fragiskos Alvertis said his team was not coming to the Final Four as the underdog.

"We and Maccabi have equal chances. I wouldn't suggest to anyone to take us for granted," the veteran Greek forward said. "We have a deep roster with talented and hungry players who want to go all the way. Each team has a 25 percent chance at the Final Four and to all those who are certain that the championship game will be played between Maccabi and CSKA, I would say give credit to the other teams."

Final Four host CSKA Moscow's preparations move into full swing tomorrow night when it faces Ural Great and Israeli forward Sharon Sasson in the first game of its Russian Superleague playoff quarterfinal.

Meanwhile bookmaker William Hill has CSKA as its favorite to take the title from Maccabi.

CSKA is 2 to 1 favorite with William Hill which will pay out only 57 cents for every dollar bet on the Russians, while Maccabi is 7 to 2 with the bookmaker paying out $3.50 for every dollar placed on the defending champion. William Hill is paying out $4.5 on Panathinaikos winning the tournament and $7.5 on Tau Vitoria.