|01 March 2013|
|Chester Simmons and Krasnye Krylia face a tough VTB League assignment on the road this weekend|
Krasnye Krylia Samara and Pinar Karsiyaka achieved the first of their multiple aims this season by securing their passage to the EuroChallenge quarter-final play-offs.
The Russian side remains the only undefeated team in the competition and topped Group K with a perfect 6-0 record, while the Turks took first place in Group I with a 4-2 record, despite an 87-79 loss at Joensuun Kataja on the final day of Last 16 action, last Tuesday.
Krasnye Krylia will have to better Telekom Baskets Bonn in their best-of-three play-off series while Karsiyaka face Paris Levallois, with both the Samara and the Izmir outfit holding the home-court advantage.
The EuroChallenge play-offs, which begin on 12 March, represent an important milestone in the 2012/13 campaign of both the Russian and the Turkish team.
However before allowing their minds to wander to 12 March, crucial challenges await both sides, in the form of decisive games on the road this weekend.
On Sunday, Krasnye Krylia travel to Kazan to take on fellow Russian side UNICS, in a direct clash for first place in VTB United League Group A.
There are only three game days left in the Regular Season and the two opponents, together with Khimki, are tied at the top of the group with an 11-4 record, while Spartak St. Petersburg have 10 wins to their name but also a game in hand.
An away win for Samara in Kazan would convert them into hot favourites in the race for top spot, as they have the advantage of playing host to Khimki in two weeks' time.
|Can Mutaf is one of three Pinar Karsiyaka players currently on the injured list|
On Monday, Karsiyaka travel to Istanbul to face off with Fenerbahce Ulker, joint leaders (together with Banvit) of the Turkish BEKO Ligi.
While there are still 11 games left in the regular season, this could prove to be a key encounter for Karsiyaka.
The Izmir outfit is one of only two teams to have defeated Fener so far this season in the BEKO Ligi, and a second win would not only allow them to go level with the Istanbul powerhouse in the standings, but would also hand them the head-to-head advantage in case the two finish tied at the end of the season.
Karsiyaka though are not arriving at this crucial clash in the best possible condition.
For the second consecutive game, following the midweek loss to Kataja, coach Ufuk Sarica will not have three key perimeter players to his disposal.
Shooting guards Jon Diebler and Can Mutaf, along with small forward Caner Topaloglu will sit out the Monday encounter through injury.
While the two Turkish players are expected to be back in the line-up in a few days, Diebler's situation is alarming enough to force the club to scan the market for a possible replacement.
The club's general manager, Levent Türknas, told Turkish daily Hurriyet that the American is expected to stay sidelined for about a month-and-a-half, and Karsiyaka might announce a signing within the next five days, to deal with his absence.
After this diagnosis, Diebler will undoubtedly miss the EuroChallenge quarter-finals and could only reappear in the competition if Karsiyaka advance to the Final Four.
The 25-year-old shooting guard contributed 11.1 points and 2.6 rebounds on average in his 10 EuroChallenge games this season.