By Paul Nilsen
|Raffaella Masciadri and Beretta-Famila hope to stun reigning champions Salamanca in the play-offs|
Raffaella Masciadri has paid tribute to Round 2 opponents Perfumerias Avenida after claiming the defending champions can provide inspiration to those teams who don't boast an array of superstar players.
The Beretta-Famila Schio small forward is adamant the Spanish club has rolled out a blueprint for success in the competition after their stunning run to the top of the podium last year - something she feels other clubs, including her own, can draw strength from this time around.
"Last year I was so impressed with Salamanca. They were a good team but without many of the so-called ‘superstar players' on their roster" explained Masciadri
"While of course they still had lot of talent, nobody really expected them to win.
"But, every player gave their best at the right moment, played very well for each other and the EuroLeague Women title was the natural consequence!
"This can be a good inspiration for every team this season, not just for us!"
Both clubs know each other very well having met in Group B during Round 1 of the competition with each claiming a home success against the other and Masciadri is not surprisingly expecting more hard fought games ahead.
She said "Of course I'll expect to win but I also know that it'll be very difficult. They are the champions and they will want to defend their title!
"Besides this, I think we have to play a smart game, especially because during the first game in Salamanca earlier this season, they were playing very strong on defence.
"We can't allow them to play on the fast-break and move the ball on offence for their inside-outside game."
Both teams have moved to bolster their rosters in recent weeks with Schio landing Ivana Jalcova from Lotos Gdynia to replace side-lined Chiara Pastore while Perfumerias Avenida have acquired the veteran experience of Russian national team player Ilona Korstin who had been playing in EuroCup Women with Besiktas.
Masciadri feels Korstin can definitely be a factor for the champions and is acutely aware of what she will offer her new team,
"She'll give them more power and strength and especially on the defensive end.
"Korstin will also try to get some easy baskets from offensive rebounding, her best way of playing!"
To be successful, Masciadri believes the Italian side must continue their defensive momentum and keep cranking up intensity levels after an unconvincing opening phase of the competition.
"I think we gradually improved during Round 1. We started a little bit soft by losing easy games like against CCC Polkovice when we were supposed to win.
"At that time we gave up as soon as we were down by six to eight points and we weren't able to recover the gap.
"But, during the second half of the Round 1 we improved on defence so that we could score easy baskets on the fast-break.
"I think this was evidenced in the win against Salamanca at home and this will be important again."
If Schio are to truly take inspiration from the feat accomplished by Perfumerias Avenida last year and not only make it to Final Eight but also initiate a push for the podium then Masciadri feels Ros Casares will be the team to beat in Istanbul.
She said, "One month ago, I would have said Galatasaray Medical Park with no doubt, but after Alba Torrens' injury, this will change the way to play because she became so important for them.
"So, right now, I'll say Valencia because with the complete roster, Ros Casares are playing so good and also Fenerbahce too!"