Pau Gasol, pictured on the Rio 2016 podium with his bronze medal, could finish his EuroBasket career on a high ©Getty Images

Defending EuroBasket champions Spain, gold medallists in three of the last four editions, are overwhelming favourites to retain their title at the 40th staging of the tournament which gets underway tomorrow in four host cities.

Following the decision to relocate the 2015 tournament, original hosts Ukraine were offered the chance to stage the 2017 edition, but they declined due to ongoing unrest in their country.

Last December International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Europe announced that the tournament would be hosted by four cities - Cluj Napoca in Romania, Helsinki in Finland, Tel Aviv in Israel and Istanbul in Turkey.

The latter will host the closing stages with the final scheduled for September 17.

Spain, the 2009, 2011 and 2015 champions, will get their competition underway on Friday (September 1) with their opening Group C match against Montenegro.

They are hoping to provide their veteran Pau Gasol, voted the most valuable player at the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2009 and 2015 versions of EuroBasket, with a successful conclusion to what is expected to be his final appearance in this competition.

Spain's prospects are strengthened even further with the news that they will be able to call upon some of the talents they missed in 2015, including Gasol's brother Marc and Ricky Rubio, a star playmaker in the NBA with Utah Jazz.

France, Lithuania and Serbia are the other three top-seeded nations.

France - the 2013 winners - are missing Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum, and this is the first tournament without Tony Parker, Mickael Gelabale and Florent Pietrus.

They play their opening Group A match in Helsinki tomorrow, against the hosts Finland.

Spain celebrate their 2015 EuroBasket win in Madrid after beating Lithuania in the final ©Getty Images
Spain celebrate their 2015 EuroBasket win in Madrid after beating Lithuania in the final ©Getty Images

Serbia look like podium contenders, but are without the influential Milos Teodosic.

They start their Group D campaign in Istanbul on Friday against a Latvian side that many observers believe capable of great things this year if Kristaps Porzingis, their leading light from the NBA's New York Knicks, decides to shine brightly.

Lithuania's opening Group B match in Tel Aviv sees them meet Georgia tomorrow.

Greece's prospects have been seriously diminished by the announcement that they will be without their star NBA man Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Four teams from each group will qualify for the last 16.

Joining France and Finland in Group A are Greece, Iceland, Slovenia and Poland.

Ukraine, Israel, Italy and Germany will square off with Lithuania and Georgia in Group B.

Spain's opponents in Group C also include Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania and Hungary. 

In Group D, Great Britain, Belgium, Russia and Turkey complete the pool.

As from this year, FIBA Continental Championships will take place every four years, with their qualification systems falling into line with the Basketball World Cup.