This Friday, Valencia Basket will face one of the most difficult challenges it can have on paper: a visit to the Fernando Buesa Arena, the Cazoo Baskonia fort. Álex Mumbrú’s pupils will try to return to the top 8 of the Euroleague, and incidentally set a new record for consecutive victories away from home, on their cursed court, the one they do the worst of all those on the national map.
The ‘taronja’ have only been able to win in Vitoria in nine of their 46 visits, 19.5% of victories, less loot than stolen on courts such as Real Madrid (24%) and Barça (24.4%). A balance that in the maximum continental competition is one game won in four attempts since the 2003/04 season. Then, in the group stage, the Basques prevailed 73-67. The last precedent, in the 2020/21 academic year, also ended in defeat (71-70), while Valencia BC’s only success in the Euroleague at the Buesa Arena dates back to October 2017, 63-80, to the sound of Bojan Dubljevic.
Precisely, the captain is one of the players involved in the injury of Kyle Alexander, a pivot who was giving the team a plus in the defensive field so far this year. The Cuban Jasiel Rivero will see his quota of minutes increased in the ‘5’ position. “He hurts us because he was in a good moment, but throughout the season we have had injuries and now it’s about replacing him,” said the power forward. «The way I feel comfortable is on the track. I can help where they put me and I will give my maximum energy to help the team”, added Rivero, who will meet again with Joan Peñarroya, the coach with whom he developed in Burgos before coming together to Valencia, but also the one who questioned his injury in the final moments of the acb game at the beginning of January at the Buesa. “I leave that behind. He gave his opinion, he thought it was not true that he had injured me. But after he wrote to me asking how he was doing, he realized that I did get hurt. Everything is fine,” explained the Cuban, who is still waiting to receive the Spanish passport and not occupy a non-EU position. “We did everything, we just have to hope that it arrives as soon as possible,” he recalls.
Both Jasiel Rivero and the ‘coach’, Álex Mumbrú, congratulated themselves on the recovery of Martin Hermannsson, whose presence on a squad list and his first minutes are imminent. For the moment, the Icelander stayed at home and, presumably, will enter the ‘roster’ on Sunday for the acb clash with Tenerife, the day in which one of the three foreigners will not be able to get dressed and everything indicates that it will be Jared Harper for the inner need. “He has more rhythm than thought, he is eager and excited,” said the coach about the Nordic base.
Regarding the game, Mumbrú pointed out the motivation to win against a rival with whom he has lost in the previous two this season, and the need to be solid in defense against a team that “big players” and “great potential offensive”. In fact, the team from Alava and Maccabi are the best locals in the Euroleague with a record of ten wins in 12 games played at home, a scenario in which their scoring average shoots up to 95.1 points.
Valencia BC’s trajectory in the Euroleague, however, is also positive. Ninth, equals the 13-12 balance of seventh, Baskonia, and, for the second time in its history, has chained three victories away from Fonteta and today can beat this record.