It was well after midnight when Andrea Trinchieri crossed the already rather empty VIP area towards the exit, a smile on her face. Almost two hours earlier, his side had booked the Euroleague round of 16 first leg against Red Star Belgrade on Friday night, with an 82:57 win. Although Belgrade and Alba Berlin can still equalize Munich after victories, but because the direct comparison speaks in favor of Bayern, they are at the start of the playoffs of the most important European basketball competition. Trinchieri announced after the triumph that he would appreciate a glass of champagne. A relatively modest wish. When his team achieved the same feat a year ago, the FCB coach wanted to celebrate with a “pool full of red wine”.
Perhaps it was the special circumstances that made the Italian’s wish a bit more humble and made his players’ performance appear even greater. “To be among the top eight teams in Europe for the second year in a row is a great achievement for this organisation,” said Trinchieri, “and it is fully deserved.”
This could be understood as a reference to the bans of the three Russian teams Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kazan, who had long vied with Bayern for a place in the knockout stage but were later disqualified. Otherwise, Trinchieri preferred to remember all the problems his players had to overcome in recent weeks, the two corona waves that had shaken the team, which had already been thinned out due to injury, back to back. “We weren’t able to train with a full squad once in the whole season,” said Trinchieri, who was in quarantine himself until recently. Everything went well until the beginning of February, the coach recalled. The team was wider and deeper than last season, so the results were good. But then “the aliens took everything from us,” as Trinchieri describes the continued bad luck with recurring corona injuries and breakthroughs.
The majority of players returned to the squad in time for Friday’s showdown, but the question was what scars the lack of training had left. Even the performance in the narrow 77:84 defeat at Milan last Tuesday had given the coach an idea that it could still work. “The match gave us good vibes,” he said. They should now be transported in the coming week.
In Euroleague, it is now a better starting point for the playoffs
Then, at the end of the main round, there are three games in five days, Monday at Fenerbahce Istanbul, Wednesday at Turkish city rivals Efes and Friday at Real Madrid. The week ends on Sunday with the guest appearance in the Bundesliga in Giessen. “With the playoff ticket in our pockets, we’ll get through this too,” Trinchieri said. For the Munich side, the three games are still all about moving up from eighth place in the standings, which would mean a supposedly weaker opponent in the quarter-finals.
Nevertheless, the focus remains on domestic companies. Captain Nihad Djedovic recently reminded that in Munich only a season with a title is good. Because the cup has already been lost to Berlin, the championship remains the primary objective. General manager Marko Pesic even warned of this at the time of the play-off triumph: “Being in Euroleague play-offs for the second time is a good sign, especially in relation to the new venue”, which will bring the club even more audience in the future target. A goal has been achieved, so Pesic, but: “The German championship remains the focus.”
At first glance, the game in Oldenburg on Saturday evening may not quite correspond to this statement – for which the Munich team came with a selection C. No less than ten players rested, all foreign professionals and even the coach were given time off before heading to Istanbul. Meanwhile, Djedovic, Andreas Obst and Paul Zipser, all three injured or ill for a long time, are expected to continue training, as are additional players Gavin Schilling, Joshua Obiesie and Jason George. What top scorer George achieved in Oldenburg with 20 points, but Obiesie (18) and Obst (15) were also convincing. Youngsters Luis Wulff, Aleksa Vucetic and Mohamed Sillah celebrated their professional debuts.
The performance ended in a crushing defeat of 75:106, which probably eventually brought Oldenburg into the league – and should meet with less understanding from relegation battle contenders Gießen, Frankfurt, Braunschweig, Mitteldeutscher BC and Wurzburg.
From Munich’s perspective, there was no alternative to the decision, as Pesic pointed out: “We have to protect the health of our players in the coming days.” Especially since the season in both competitions is just entering its decisive phase. Overloading causes injuries, it’s a simple math, sporting director Daniele Baiesi explained: “Our numerical measurements of loads just suggest what we think makes sense to protect the health of our players.” For coach Trinchieri, it’s about ‘surviving next week’.