|Roberto Iniguez: "We have fought this year to achieve a perfect regular season and now we have to complete the job"|
Roberto Iniguez is eager for his Fenerbahce players to pen the perfect ending to a perfect EuroLeague Women season so far - even if he isn't thrilled to be facing some familiar faces during the opening phase at the Final Eight.
Still yet to suffer a loss in the competition during the current campaign, the 2013 runners-up will go up against two of their domestic rivals when the action gets underway in Russia.
"I really don't like our group too much," confessed Iniguez.
"We are part of three Turkish teams in the same group and with Sparta&K coming into the competition playing so well, it will be hard.
"Maybe this is attractive for other people, but certainly not for us as coaches!"
It was a year when he of course went on to an even greater distinction, by leading the Valencia side to the title at the first ever Final Eight, in his current home of Istanbul.
Now he is looking for Fenerbahce to go one better than the second place they took last year and replicate the success of his former team by climbing to the top of the podium - something which would also see Iniguez make a hugely impressive third consecutive final at the event.
"I expect the best of my team," he insisted.
"We have fought this year to achieve a perfect regular season.
"We managed to get number one in the rankings and now we have to complete the job."
First up will be Kayseri and Iniguez is particularly eager his team don't slip-up in their opening encounter.
He said, "Our first game is very important. With this competition system, it always has been and so it will be again.
"The first day is difficult every time and especially for the big teams, since they feel more pressure. But, we know our job and we will be focused game by game.
"I feel this Final Eight is going to be tighter than ever," added the Spaniard.
|Fenerbahce sport the second-best offence in the competition, with Angel McCoughtry being their leading scorer |
Schedule: Kayseri Kaski spor (07/04), Galatasaray odeabank (08/04), Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje (09/04)
Headline writer: Angel McCoughtry is having arguably her best ever season in the competition and is leading the team with some exceptional numbers. She is averaging a superb 14.1 points, six rebounds and three steals per game and has very much set the tone. She seems to have really come of age this year and stepped up as a leader, particularly defensively.
‘X-Factor': It's a done deal in terms of the Fenerbahce frontcourt, which offers a stunning rotation that will always give Coach Iniguez plenty of options. With McCoughtry and Agnieszka Bibrzycka playing well on the wings, it could boil down to how the backcourt plays. It's difficult to question an unbeaten team and especially one which is near the top of the assist chart, but the ‘X-Factor' could be how well the guards shoot the ball and if needed to make clutch shots, whether they can deliver. For all of their magnificent passing ability, the three main guards for Fenerbahce are each shooting below 40% this season and this could potentially pose a question mark heading into this all-important final phase of the tournament. No matter how good the frontcourt is, it's always good to have a hot-hand in the backcourt. Much could depend on Cappie Pondexter and Birsel Vardarli.
Unsung hero: Bibrzycka probably hasn't received the degree of praise she deserves for a terrific season which has seen her attain an uplift in shooting accuracy all over the court. She heads back to Ekaterinburg where she spent a sizeable chunk of her career with the kind of form that could yet see her transformed into the headline writer.
Number crunching: A runners-up position last year was still an accomplishment, since it was the first time Fenerbahce had finished in the top three of a European competition for eight years. They have an array of frontcourt stars, yet they are the worst offensive rebounding team at the event, with nine per game. However, they show their quality, depth and team-concept by being in the top three of an array of statistical categories including points scored, points allowed, assists and field-goal percentage.
In just eight words: Have genuine title potential, but backcourt must produce.