CSKA vs. Lokomotiv – this has been one of Russian basketball’s best rivalries in recent years. Even though CSKA has won four in a row vs. the Railwaymen in League competition (including a sweep in the 2017 playoffs), and Loko’s last win came in December 2016, the club from Krasnodar has been CSKA’s toughest rival during the regular season. Since moving to a round-robin format, the Red-Greens has split every season series and even swept the Army Men during the 2014-15 campaign.
The League is charging into the New Year with a showdown between 1st-place unbeaten CSKA (10-0) and 2nd-place Lokomotiv (8-1). With a win, the Army Men can open up a big lead in the standings as the season nears the midway point.
CSKA and Loko are both clicking, guided by two of the League’s most respected coaches. Each team is dominant, but in its own way. The Army Men boast the highest-scoring offense in the League (92.8 ppg), while Kuban gives up a League-best 68.1 ppg. Dimitris Itoudis’s system emphasizes free-flowing creativity, while Sasa Obradovic’s Loko focuses on disrupting and shutting down opposing offenses. Both are models for other clubs to mimic–on Sunday we’ll learn which approach is more effective.
This isn’t the first game of 2018 for either team. Krasnodar won another game in the EuroCup, this time on the road vs. Buducnost in its first Top 16 outing. CSKA, on the other hand, suffered a surprising setback to 12th-place Barcelona in the EuroLeague.
CSKA and Loko are both mostly healthy and will enter Sunday’s game at full strength, determined to play at a high level. After the defeat in Spain, the Army Men will be looking to prove to the fans that Thursday’s loss was nothing more than a temporary blip. CSKA’s desire to quickly rebound could be an X-factor in the game.