Tactical Insights

Preview: FC Barcelona vs Virtus Bologna – Euroleague Round 24

It’s the clash of 2nd and 3rd in the Euroleague Basketball standings in Palau Blaugrana. Can Virtus Bologna continue their dream season and defeat FC Barcelona on the road? Add Ricky Rubio potential return to the mix and this promises to be wild

Off court matters with Ricky Rubio took centre stage with FC Barcelona on Monday but Wednesday will be all business in Euroleague Basketball as they host Virtus Bologna

Key details

Who: FC Barcelona (15-8) vs Virtus Bologna (15-8)
Where: Palau Blaugrana, Barcelona
When: Wednesday 31 January at 20.30 CET, 19.30 UK/Ireland, 14.30 CET

Last time out

FC Barcelona nearly stole a game they had no right being competitive in while away to Olimpia Milano. Despite the collapse of the hosts, the Blaugrana couldn’t do enough to avoid defeat in the end.

In the Euroleague Basketball standings, that result was to the benefit of Virtus Bologna. Despite defeat on the road at Fenerbahce, the Italian side stayed level with Barcelona in the standings and could take second place outright with a win in this game.

Key battles

Nicolas Laprovittola’s return couldn’t come soon enough for FC Barcelona. They struggled during the three rounds he was absent for in Euroleague Basketball, despite going 2-1 in those games, and will value having a reliable pair of hands leading the back court once more.

For Virtus Bologna, I’m going to steal a line from my old pal Moshe Barda: No Toko, no party. Toko Shengelia has been out for the last couple of games and looks set to be a game time decision for this one. He has been immense for Virtus all season and not having him at 100 per cent will be a big impact.

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Need to know

We simply can’t ignore the off-court news this week. Ricky Rubio has started training with FC Barcelona. His story is an important one, it really helped me a lot, but don’t expect to see him on the floor in this game.

FC Barcelona have until 7 February to register him for this season and I expect all parties to go close to that date before making a final decision.

What the bookies think

The home side are big favourites in Euroleague Basketball betting but not unbackable. The 3/10 price on FC Barcelona provides some room for manoeuvre for bettors. The sportsbooks meanwhile have priced the under strength Virtus Bologna team at 5/2. Those are balanced enough prices.

The spread favours the Blaugrana by -7.5 points, which seems to be factoring in that Laprovittola isn’t fully recovered from injury.

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What we think

.FC Barcelona showed at the weekend against Palencia that they can make hard work of anyone. Understrength or not, Virtus Bologna still look capable of being competitive in this game. That said, down the stretch those injury issues look likely to prove decisive.

The prediction

I must be in a mood to be aggressive as, for the second straight selection, I’m backing a favourite to cover a decent enough point spread. I think Laprovittola has recovered enough to force a decisive win for the home side.
Pick: FC Barcelona -7.5 points

Emmet Ryan

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