VTB United League
CSKA Moscow hosts Khimki Moscow Region in the Game of the Week.
USH CSKA (capacity 5,000), Moscow, Russia
7:30 PM (7:30 MSK), February 5, 2018
Match TV, VTB-League.com
Face to Face
CSKA and Khimki have played 96 times, one of the longest rivalries in Russian basketball. The Army Men lead the series 79-17. Plenty of those games have come in the VTB United League, including several instant classics. But there haven’t been many tight games in recent years. The Army Men swept Khimki 5-0 last season, including a 3-0 series sweep in the playoff finals. Four of those games were blowouts. Even the first meeting this season between CSKA and Khimki ended in a landslide win for Moscow, despite an entertaining and competitive opening three quarters. Overall, the Red-Blues are riding a 14-game winning streak in the series.
Balance of Power
CSKA and Khimki both hosted Spanish clubs in the EuroLeague this week: Real and Unicaja, respectively. Both won with Georgios Bartzokas calling the game vs. Unicaja “the toughest of the season” for his team. The Army Men remain in 1st place in the EuroLeague, while Khimki is in position for a quarterfinal berth.
CSKA is 1st in the EuroLeague, but only 3rd in the VTB League following two losses in January. Another defeat in the Leningradka derby would drop CSKA two games behind 1st-place UNICS.
Khimki is unlikely to challenge for a regular season title, but the Yellow-Blues are trying to finish in the top four and secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. With a 7-6 record entering Monday’s showdown, Moscow Region has no margin for error the rest of the way.
Fans expected a reinvigorated Leningradka derby entering the 2017-18 season. Khimki made several notable signings over the summer and were seen as CSKA’s primary threat in the League. But the Yellow-Blues have struggled to live up to expectations thus far. A win over the Army Men would mean a fresh start for Bartzokas and co. and renewed optimism in the second half of the season as Khimki looks to make a serious run at a title.
Kurbanov vs. Shved.
Kurbanov is one of Europe’s premier one-on-one defenders and Shved is leading both the VTB United League and EuroLeague in scoring. But Kurbanov has brought much more than defense to the table when these two teams meet. In CSKA’s two wins over Khimki this season, the Russian forward put up 21 points on 7-8 shooting in the VTB United League and 18 points on 6-8 shooting, to go with seven rebounds and four assists in the EuroLeague.
He’s getting a bit of a reputation as a Khimki killer. Shved, meanwhile, has struggled against the Army Men this season. Will the script stay the same or can Moscow Region’s superstar deliver an MVP-level performance and make everyone forget about Kurbanov?
CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
– We’ve already played twice this season, but every game is different. This is a true derby and we expect a tough game.
Khimki head coach Georgios Bartzokas:
– We only had one day to prepare for this game. Once again, we face a big challenge because CSKA is an elite team. We have several issues in the frontcourt since Todorovic isn’t available in the VTB League and Sokolov is injured. We’ll have to get by without them and try to play our best. CSKA has the best offense in the EuroLeague, so we’ll need to play extremely hard on defense. This is a very talented team and if we let them dictate the style of play, we’ll have problems.