Battle At The Top: CSKA Hosts UNICS

CSKA Moscow welcomes UNICS Kazan to the Universal Sports Hall on Monday evening.

CSKA, 2014-15 VTB United League champions
UNICS, 2014-15 VTB United League quarterfinalists

USH CSKA (5,000 capacity), Moscow, Russia

7:00 PM (7:00 PM MSK), November 16, 2015

NTV+, VTB-League.com

Face to Face
CSKA and UNICS have played each other for decades with the Red-Blues enjoying a commanding 65-16 edge in the all-time series.
Within the VTB United League, the two teams have met nine times (Moscow holds an 8-1 edge; UNICS's only win was in January 2011). The two teams last met in the postseason in 2014, when the Army Men swept Kazan in three hard-fought games (92-90, 65-61, 92-86). CSKA picked up another two wins last season, winning 75-51 in Moscow and 75-73 on the road in Kazan.

Looking Back

CSKA lost at home to Unicaja in the Euroleague on Friday, snapping a four-game winning streak. The loss came four days after CSKA defeated Lokomotiv-Kuban on the road in the VTB United League, improving to 5-1.

Summer signing Joel Freeland has yet to play for the Army Men this season, while team captain Viktor Khryapa is also out with an injury. Nonetheless, CSKA has the depth to compete with any opponent and will do everything possible to avoid a second straight loss at home.

UNICS picked up an important win on Wednesday in the Eurocup, knocking off Trabzonspor in the Eurocup. The victory moves Kazan into a three-way tie for first in its group. In the VTB United League, Kazan boasts a 5-1 record and can take over 2nd place by beating CSKA on Monday.

The calendar, however, has done UNICS no favors. Following Monday's game, Evgeny Pashutin's men face matchups against Khimki, Nizhny Novgorod, Kalev and Lokomotiv-Kuban. A win against CSKA would be huge entering one of the season's toughest stetches.

CSKA hasn't lost at home in the VTB United League, while UNICS is perfect on the road. Which team will keep its streak alive?
The Army Men are historically very difficult to beat in Moscow. That hasn't changed this season with wins over Krasny Oktyabr, Khimki and Kalev. UNICS, meanwhile, has already defeated Astana, Bisons and Vita on the road.

Nando De Colo (CSKA) vs. Keith Langford (UNICS).

No need for introductions when it comes to these two veteran guards. The Frenchman and American have been dominant over the first month of the regular season: Langford leads the league in scoring (24.3 ppg) and efficiency rating (26.3), while De Colo ranks second in both categories (20.2 ppg and 22.2 efficiency rating). Both guards are also shooting 57% from inside the arc. VTB United League fans are in for a treat on Monday night.

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
- We're facing a very good, talented team. We need to be focused for all 40 minutes and prepared to battle, especially on defense. The defense will be the key factor in the game, given UNICS is a very dangerous attacking team.

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- We're going to Moscow to play our best: up-tempo and exciting defense-first basketball. In order to play our best, we'll need to give everything we have. We must make it tough for the Army Men to move the ball and play suffocating defense against their leaders. We'll be without Petr Gubanov and Vadim Panin. Gubanov is out for two weeks and Panin will miss a week.

- UNICS will be very motivated and I think Kazan has a decent chance. After all, the team has some very talented players, - says Lokomotiv-Kuban guard Sergey Bykov, who's played for both CSKA and UNICS. - If they get in a rhythm, they can beat anyone. A lot will depend on Keith Langford's condition and attitude. He's UNICS's main attacking force. Kazan needs to understand how to play against Teodosic and De Colo. In addition to dominating the competition, those two seem to be competing with each other to decide who's the leader at CSKA. The Army Men have had a tough schedule, but they will give everything they have after the loss to Unicaja to avoid losing two straight. I won't venture to predict the outcome. There's no point. But everyone knows that on paper CSKA has the best roster in Europe.