Preview: Will Fenerbahce or Mersin make history with their first title?
PRAGUE (Czech Republic) - History is guaranteed in Sunday's Final with either Fenerbahce Alagoz Holding or CBK Mersin Yenisehir Bld due to be crowned EuroLeague Women champions for the first time.
The historic title-decider will tip off at 20:00 CET on Sunday and will be streamed on the EuroLeague Women YouTube channel.
Fenerbahce are hoping it will be a case of fifth time lucky having lost out in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2022, while for Final Four first-timers Mersin, this is another new step and high tide mark.
So what is the case for them picking up their maiden silverware in the competition?
Here are three reasons for each explaining why they can feel confident of finishing top of the podium.
Making the case for Fenerbahce Alagoz Holding
The best one-two punch in EuroLeague Women at both ends of the court
Fenerbahce have some serious talent to rely on, but with Breanna Stewart and Emma Meesseman, they arguably have the most effective one-two punch in the competition. Both built for the big games and the clutch, they know what it is like to be both crowned a champion and to also collect the Final Four MVP award.
Stewart looks to be favorite to repeat the feat if Fenerbahce complete the mission, while Meesseman just picked up her Season MVP honor. Working in tandem they are so often unstoppable offensively and it probably gets overlooked the job they do on defense for their team too.
The noise from those fans...
Last year, it was crazy inside the arena as in their role as host club, Fenerbahce thought they were finally going to get the job done. While that didn't happen, the noise was sensational and it is likely to be just as much of a 'home game' on Sunday.
The expectation is that Fenerbahce fans will pack out the venue in the Czech capital and roar their team to a famous landmark victory - one they have waited so, so long for. They could be a real difference-maker for their team. Get ready for that volume to be turned up!
The luxury for Fenerbahce and specifically Marina Maljkovic remains the sheer depth of options she has at her disposal. She can rotate through so many players until she finds the winning formula. Of course, an extended rotation can sometimes can be a curse rather than a blessing if the chemistry is not set solidly and players are unhappy with minutes.
However, nothing else matters but Fenerbahce becoming champions and the one thing having the long bench really makes a difference with is energy and intensity. They can turn the noise up in this area when opponents are beginning to get tired.
Making the case for CBK Mersin Yenisehir Bld
Underdog status and far less pressure
At the elite level there is always pressure. This is no different for Mersin just because they are here for the first time. They will still have the deep the desire to win, the need to earn a return of silverware for the investment made in the team, plus the pressure they will put on themselves as top level coaches and athletes.
However, there is absolutely no denying that the vast majority of pressure is on the shoulders of Fenerbahce. It is undeniable because of what has went before, not only last year, but because not winning would mean five failed Finals. As the slight underdog in this game, not having the same burden of history will surely help.
Familiarity means the feel good factor
While there will be some personnel changes because of the difference in EuroLeague Women and Turkish League eligibility rules, the familiarity and rivalry that Mersin has with Fenerbahce will surely be a key driver in favor of the former.
There is a school of thought that reads Fenerbahce wanted to face Mersin least, because it is always more tricky to overcome a team you know so well from domestic battles. Mersin actually won the Regular Season in the Turkish League, beating them in one of the meetings in the Cup, while also shooting down Fenerbahce in the Presidents Cup Final too.
Defense and disruption
Both respective head coaches are leaders in their field and the job Roberto Iniguez did to slow down and shut down Praha in the Semi-Finals was a masterclass. He will have to come up with another again and will probably know that out gunning Fenerbahce will be tough. Therefore much like in the last game, it's a big serving of defense and disrupting his opponents' offense that will give his team the best chance of being crowned champions.
The steals, the blocks and the general aggressive approach of Mersin witnessed Praha crumble at times. Even if that is not likely against Fenerbahce, Iniguez will make sure his team turns up every defensive and physical dial to maximum to knock the favorites out of their stride.