Georgia hosts Montenegro in decisive Eurobasket qualifiers match

Georgia held their final training ahead of the match against Montenegro on Tuesday. Photo by Mariam Nishnianidze., 07 Sep 2016 - 16:22, Tbilisi,Georgia

Tbilisi's Sports Palace is hosting a key game of the Eurobasket 2017 European Basketball Championship qualifiers this evening, with Group F leaders Georgia and Montenegro facing each other in a sold-out match.

The two teams jointly lead their group after winning their first two games of the campaign. The winner of tonight’s match will take sole lead of Group F in pursuit of reaching the European Championship next year.

In the opening fixtures of Group F, Georgia defeated Albania on August 31 and Slovakia on September 3, gaining four points for the joint lead of the pool. Slovakia and Albania are ranked third and fourth respectively.

Acknowledging the significance of tonight’s game between the two leaders of Group F, the Georgian Basketball Federation addressed its followers via a tweet earlier today:

The importance of winning tonight’s match was also underscored by Georgia's top National Basketball Association (NBA) export Zaza Pachulia in his interview with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) website on Tuesday.

Obviously with a win we would make a big, huge step towards qualifying for next year’s Eurobasket. We should defend our home court and take care of business," Pachulia told reporters.

Georgia's coach Ilias Zouros selected a full strength team for tonight’s clash, while Montenegro will miss one of its lead players, NBA team Minnesota Timberwolves' centre Nikola Pekovic through injury.

However the visitors will welcome back a prominent NBA centre Nikola Vucevic, who plays for Orlando Magic.

One of Georgia's key players, forward Viktor Sanikidze photographed at the training session on Tuesday. Photo by Mariam Nishnianidze.

Earlier today the Georgian Basketball Federation said all tickets for the match had been sold and supporters were asked to arrive at the Sports Palace early to ensure thye were seated when the game started and to create a positive atmosphere in support for their team.

The Federation’s call was echoed by comments from Pachulia and coach Zouros, who stressed the importance of playing, and winning, at home.

The Eurobasket 2017 qualifying stage launched on August 31 and will run until September 17. At the end of the competition 11 top national teams will proceed to the European tournament, hosted in Israel, Finland, Romania and Turkey next year.

The match between Georgia and Montenegro will begin at 7pm Tbilisi local time.