MANILA, Philippines -- There is a special kind of pressure in playing a rivalry game, and it's only heightened further when the game is played on a holiday.
For the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and the Magnolia Hotshots, the protagonists of the "Manila Clasico," there is no need for more motivation as they brace for their face off on Christmas Day.
"I don't need to motivate my players in this kind of game, on the Clasico. Because the hype and the fans will motivate the players," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.
"There's not a lot of need for motivation, from the coaching staff or from management, because these players are super motivated to play against each other. And they know how important it is to the fans, so I think we're all looking forward to that Christmas Day game," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, for his part.
This marks the first time that the PBA is holding a Christmas Day game since 2017. The Gin Kings and the Hotshots also played in a Christmas Clasico that year, with Ginebra emerging triumphant, 89-78, at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
"It's certainly one [game] you wanna win," Cone said of their upcoming assignment against their fierce rivals. "It certainly ruins your Christmas if you don't win it. So the loser goes home extra sad on Christmas Day."
Though there is great pressure in playing the Clasico -- especially on Christmas Day -- Cone also points out that it is a great honor for both teams.
That is especially true this year as the PBA expects its biggest crowd of the pandemic era to watch at the Araneta Coliseum on Christmas. The league had welcomed fans back to the Big Dome just last week, with a maximum of 4,000 persons allowed inside the venue.
"This is all about getting back to normal and getting the fans in the stands, and Christmas Day games have always been memorable games," said Cone. "They're a lot of fun to play, because there's a lot of attention on it."
"It's an honor, actually, to be chosen to play the Christmas Day game. I think every team is honored to do it. It seems like right now, we've been playing Manila Clasicos on it. So, that just goes to show how important that game is for everyone. So it's a real honor to play in that game," he added.
Both Ginebra and Magnolia are unbeaten heading into the match-up, with the Gin Kings toting a 3-0 record while the Hotshots have a 2-0 win-loss slate.
Also in action on Christmas Day are the NLEX Road Warriors (4-0) as they look to sustain a perfect start against Phoenix Super LPG (2-2).