MADRID (Reuters) - Injury-hit Barcelona were picked apart by traditional rivals Real Madrid on Sunday but their meeting at the Euroleague Final Four in London next month will be a different story, Barca center Ante Tomic told Reuters.
The Spanish rivals will clash for berth in the grand final of Europe’s premier club basketball competition while holders Olympiakos Piraeus take on CSKA Moscow in the other semi in London’s O2 Arena hosting the showpiece event from May 10-12.
“It will be a different game in London, probably low-scoring because there will be so much more at stake,” Tomic said after Barcelona slumped to a 78-65 defeat against his former club.
”This was the last dress rehearsal for the Euroleague Final Four for both sides as we’ve met a few times this season already and there are no secrets between us.
”Real are a fast-flowing and free-scoring team with very good transition from defense to attack. We nurture a similar style so it should be a fascinating contest in London.
“We missed three key players through injury and we also had several walking wounded in this game, hence we will use the next two weeks to recuperate and prepare for what’s coming in England,” he said.
Barca and Real reached the Euroleague Final Four in contrasting fashion, with Real enjoying a 3-0 sweep of Maccabi Tel Aviv in their best-of-five quarter-final series while Barca were pushed to the limit in a 3-2 defeat of Panathinaikos Athens.
Having won two Spanish cups at Real from 2009-2012, Tomic will now aim to clinch the most coveted trophy in European club basketball in his first season at Barcelona.
Pointing out that passion will be running high again after he was taunted by Real fans on Sunday, Tomic also praised his counterpart Felipe Reyes who led the home team with a game-high 19 points.
”There is no bad blood between Real and me, it’s a game like any other. Of course it’s the biggest derby in Spanish club basketball so emotions are always running high and I am sure it will be the case again when we meet in the Final Four.
“Reyes is still one of the best pivots in the game, he is a pillar for Real with his outstanding positional play in the paint and the uncanny ability to collect so many offensive rebounds.”
Gifted with exceptional speed, ball-handling skills and mid-range shooting for a man 2.18 meters tall, Tomic is likely to be sized up by several NBA teams but has no plans yet to move across the Atlantic to the world’s strongest basketball league.
“I am very happy at Barcelona and I am really not thinking about the NBA at the moment,” he said.
Editing by Justin Palmer