Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar hosts CSKA Moscow in the Game of the Week.
Basket Hall (capacity 7,500), Krasnodar, Russia
5:30 PM (5:30 MSK), November 11, 2018
Match TV, VTB-League.com
Face to Face
CSKA vs. Loko has proven to be one of the best match-ups in modern Russian basketball.
Kuban is CSKA’s least-favorite opponent in the regular season, with the Red and Green splitting every season series, at a minimum, since the League switched to a round-robin format. Last season was no exception as the two clubs traded road wins. During the 2014-15 season, Lokomotiv swept CSKA 2-0.
CSKA, however, enjoys an overall 16-8 edge in League meetings.
Lokomotiv-Kuban lost twice last week in the Basket Hall to Alba and Kalev. The unexpected setbacks cost Sasa Obradovic his job. In the words of president Andrey Vedishchev, Krasnodar has very high expectations for this season’s star-studded roster, and the team’s success should also not preclude youth development.
Assistant Vlada Jovanovic takes over as interim head coach. Vedishchev noted that the Serb could remove the interim tag before the international break at the end of the month. It’s hard to imagine a better opportunity for Jovanovic. A win over the reigning champs would significantly boost his prospects of becoming the permanent head coach.
Sunday is a not a make-or-break game, but will likely play an important role in the Red and Green’s decision-making process for years to come.
CSKA’s front office likely expects a positive outcome. And why shouldn’t they? The Army Men are undefeated, boasting 6-0 records in both the League and EuroLeague. At the same time, Dimitris Itoudis has managed to find significant minutes for youngsters Andrey Lopatin and Alexander Khomenko. Moscow’s offense is a terrifying prospect at present, dropping 100+ points in its last three outings vs. Kalev (102), PARMA (108) and Avtodor (110). Can Loko’s vaunted defense slow down the Red and Blue attack?
Balance of Power
Jovanovic passed his first test, helping Loko snap its home losing streak with a 96-72 win over Gdynsk in the EuroCup. Kuban showed depth and balance and completely dominated the 4th quarter, 34-14, to put the game away.
CSKA had a tough trip to Milan on Thursday. The Army Men trailed by 13 in the 3rd quarter, but managed to shift the momentum and remain undefeated. Dimitris Itoudis said the team willed itself to victory.
Dmitry Kulagin vs. Mikhail Kulagin.
The former Army Man put up 17 points and seven assists vs. in his first game vs. his former club in January, proving he’s more than a role player in Krasnodar. He’s been a leader ever since and was named captain to open the season. He’ll be extremely motivated once again to battle CSKA.
Dmitry’s younger brother has yet to match him on the court, but he’s enjoyed a strong start to the season. Kulagin Jr. is averaging 14.3 points over three games since returning from injury, tops for CSKA in the League. the guard also played well in Milan, earning separate praise from Itoudis.
On Sunday, the two brothers will be in opposite trenches for 40 minutes, fighting each other for a win.
Vitaly Fridzon. Dmitry Kulagin impressed in his first game vs. CSKA and delivered Loko a win. Now another ex-Army Man on Loko’s roster will try to do the same.
Fridzon left CSKA on good terms last summer, in search of more playing time at a different club. He found that in Krasnodar, where he has an opportunity to duel with Alexey Shved for the title of League’s all-time scorer. The highly-regarded sniper will try to add to his career total and make CSKA regret keeping him on the bench.
Kulagin and Fridzon, as mentioned above, are the only two ex-Army Men on Loko’s roster. CSKA, meanwhile, has one former Railwayman, Nikita Kurbanov, who returned to Moscow in 2015 following a big season in Krasnodar.
Loko interim head coach Vlada Jovanovic: “Before the game with CSKA, we can’t worry about the odds. We need to believe in ourselves. My challenge is to get the players to believe that we can win. In order to do that, we need to have good practices and play well. We need to battle on the court. If you want to compete at a high level, you need to give everything you have on the court. That’s what we plan to do in the game with CSKA.”
CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis: “Loko is an excellent team. It’s always tough to play them, especially on the road. They are very competitive, plus they had more time to prepare. But we know what to expect and will be ready. We are quite happy to play against a very strong opponent.”