Chus Mateo: “Baskonia is the most difficult rival we could face”

Chus Mateo: “Baskonia is the most difficult rival we could face”
Chus Mateo: “Baskonia is the most difficult rival we could face”

Chus Mateo and Real Madrid, after 70 games in tow, face this week and next one of the climax moments of the season, the Euroleague playoff, which gives access to the Final Four. The whites, leaders of the regular phase with a record of 27 victories, face Baskonia this Tuesday and Thursday at the WiZink Center (both at 9:00 p.m., M+) against Baskonia, eighth ranked and who won the position last week in a hard play in. First they lost against Maccabi and finally achieved victory against Virtus. The merengue coach spoke to the media in the preview of the tie with the desire to “finish well what has started well.” The champion defends his crown against “the most difficult rival.”

How does Real Madrid get to this important week?

Looking forward to facing the last stretch of the season and finishing well what started well. The playoff is another story, we all start from scratch, but we have earned the right to dream and think that we can, by fighting hard, go to the Final Four. I hope we are able to live up to every moment of the playoff. The opponent is the most difficult that we could face, and that is how we face it, with optimism, energy and desire to do well.

Some coaches don’t like playing in Europe against rivals from the same League, do you think the same?

We have faced Baskonia, the most difficult opponent we could face, one with a lot of scoring. Whether it is from our League or not, the Euroleague playoff is the hardest moment.

Since you know each other so well, will the details be crucial in the tie?

For sure yes. After five games in a playoff you end up knowing yourself even more. The moments of each player will be important, the dynamics of each team, the emotional state… But I think you have to be balanced to isolate yourself from emotions, from pools. We will play tomorrow’s game and continue working. During a playoff there are surprises and we will have to react if one of the teams makes a move, prepared for any situation. The knowledge we have of the rival is greater because we see him more.

The physical wear and tear with which Baskonia arrives, after playing two matches last week? play inIs it an advantage for Madrid?

We have already played 70 games including the one in Dallas, the maximum number we can play if we reach all the finals is 94… Of course, the physical toll can come to any team that plays in the Euroleague, because we all have brutal wear and tear. Baskonia is going to suffer it and Real Madrid too, we have already suffered it. Now there are no excuses for anyone. We are not hot-cloth teams. Neither us nor them, I know their coach (Dusko Ivanovic) well. There are no possible bills when there is a month and a half left, tomorrow starts from scratch for everyone. We have played practically the same games, although they have not played in the Super Cup or the Cup.

You just said that Baskonia is the most difficult rival they could face, why?

Because it is ours. Last year the most difficult was Partizan and this year it is Baskonia and we don’t care what there is in the other matches, they are our rival, the only one. I don’t care about the rest and, furthermore, his level is extraordinary. That’s why I said it, not because there is anything special.

But beyond that, Baskonia is one of the few teams with which they have a negative balance in the Euroleague (10-8), last year they lost all four games and less than three weeks ago they lost at the WiZink Center against a Markus Howard hard to stop.

The past is the past. At the moment, there is only tomorrow’s game. The above does not count for either of us. Neither Howard nor any of us count. The two teams count, Baskonia, which plays basketball very well independently of Howard, and Real Madrid. We have to abstract ourselves from these individual issues, although of course he is a player to take into account and to keep an eye on: he makes eleven triples per game in the last two months. And we will take it into account, but we are not going to be so foolish as to focus on him and lose Costello, Sedekerskis, Marinkovic, Miller-McIntyre… Baskonia has a lot of character, a special one and fights and returns to the games when it seems that they are defeated .

What do you think Rudy, Llull and Chacho can contribute after having been very important last season in winning the Euroleague?

They have a lot of experience, they can contribute a lot from inside or outside the field. The three of them are going to help us all. Last year, to win the Euroleague, we could highlight Hezonja, Tavares, Chacho, Llull, Causeur… This year, in the Cup final, others have been good: Yabusele, Poirier, Musa, Campazzo… The strength to reach the final and winning has to be shown by the entire team, which must be united to face the toughness of a Euroleague playoff. Last year was very hard, but this year I don’t rule out it being the same.

How much does it add to having the home court factor in this series?

We have played to have it. Last year, when we went 0-2 to Belgrade, we were able to come back and win. Basketball and sports in general are so unpredictable and beautiful that these things can happen. I give importance to the court factor because we have fought to have it. Everyone knows how our fans respond in important moments. I hope for the best WiZink Center. Let’s not take anything for granted, everyone has to do their part, including the public.

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