Top Two Tangle In Xanthi
(Matchday 2 Preview)
The menu for this weekend’s Greek SuperLeague includes the delayed Matchday 2 fixtures. The standout game and AGONAsport Match of the Week pits Xanthi against Olympiacos. Xanthi are the surprise of this SuperLeague campaign as they are now second place following a 10-match unbeaten run and five wins on the trot. Olympiacos meanwhile have won 11 of their 13 matches and have a 9-point lead ahead of their rivals.
Panathinaikos and AEK will try to rebound following disappointing midweek results. Panathinaikos play host to Kerkyra in this week’s Monday night match while AEK will travel to take on Asteras Tripolis.
Panionios won’t have it easy when they go to Agrinio to match up against Panetolikos. At Toumba, PAOK and PAS Giannina lock horns in an intriguing match with regard to the playoffs.
Elsewhere, Atromitos are up against struggling Levadiakos, Veria and Iraklis meet in a bottom-two tussle, while Platanias seek to make it two in a row with a victory over visiting Larisa.
*For the full SuperLeague schedule click here or visit the Greek SuperLeague home page for more. For TV Listings of this weekend's games (and more) in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Greece visit our TV Listings's page.
GAME OF THE WEEK: XANTHI - OLYMPIACOS
The AGONAsport Match of the Week is none other than the top of the table clash pitting hosts Xanthi against Olympiacos. Xanthi have a chance to cut into their opponent’s 9-point lead atop the SuperLeague. Razvan Lucescu’s team are in sparkling form with a long unbeaten run that now stretches to 10 matches with five straight wins. This will be a big test for Olympiacos against a difficult side to break down.
Olympiacos may not be lighting up the league with their performances, but the defending champions are winning their matches in one way or another. That was the case with their late win against Asteras this past week. A poor first half display was followed up by a committed effort in the second half to turn the match. Paulo Bento’s players were successful in doing so, but supporters will want to see an improvement in performances as well. A win in this match would mean Olympiacos could move a whopping 12 points clear of all their rivals heading into the second half of the season.
This weekend, Luka Milivojevic is set to return to the starting eleven. Two players expected to miss out are Omar Elabdellaoui and Tarik Elyounoussi. The duo may need until the Greek Cup match next week to become 100%.
ATROMITOS - LEVADIAKOS
Atromitos and Levadiakos will have similar hopes of ending recent slumps in the match that kicks off the delayed Matchday 2 on Saturday afternoon. Giorgos Korakakis’ Atromitos have cooled off considerably after a red-hot start under the Greek boss, who was appointed a couple games into the season. They have been distinctly average over the last month and a half and have slipped to 8th in the standings. One cure to their recent woes will be to improve on their home form. Atromitos have lost three of their five home matches so far this campaign.
Levadiakos are in even worse shape to begin 2017. Four defeats on the bounce have seen the Livadeia side slip down the table to 14th. Though they are still four points clear of the drop zone, a continuation of recent results could see them engaged in a relegation battle yet. Levadiakos will be without the services of long-term injury victims, Nwankwo Obiora and Chahir Belghazouani.
VERIA - IRAKLIS
In a do-or-die clash, the bottom two clubs in the league, Veria and Iraklis face off on Saturday. Both teams are favorites for relegation with each side having won only one match all season. However a win could be the boost necessary to begin a decent patch which could eventually pull them out of the cellar.
Veria are coming off a hard-fought 2-1 defeat to Larisa. Thomas Grafas’ side will feel aggrieved not to have picked up at least a point in that match. Heading into Saturday’s clash against Iraklis, the home team will be without Toni Calvo, who has left the club to be with ill wife. Also said to be done Veria is Pantelis Kapetanos, though he is being pressured to stay at the club, with rumors of a move to Kerkyra picking up steam.
Iraklis meanwhile also narrowly lost in their midweek match, 1-0 at home to Xanthi. Savvas Pantelidis surely understands the ramifications of losing this match and will need a way to inspire a side who have only two points away all season.
ASTERAS TRIPOLIS - AEK
|Asteras Tripolis||12:30 PM||AEK|
AEK’s campaign seems to be slipping away and they will try to right the ship against Asteras Tripolis this weekend. Jose Morais’ side have only lost twice this season, but a series of draws recently has seen them drop to 5th. The title seems out of the question at this point, so the focus must be on second place and a place in the playoffs. Wednesday’s 0-0 home draw against Panetolikos was another frustrating evening for supporters as AEK once again created many chances, but lacked the deadly instinct in front of goal.
Asteras Tripolis gave Olympiacos quite a scare on Wednesday and nearly came away with a point only to concede deep into injury time. Dimitris Elefteropoulos need to capitalize on home fixtures like this weekend as their away form has been atrocious (one win in eight away matches). Recent acquisitions will give hope they can climb up from 13th place.
PAOK - PAS GIANNINA
|PAOK||8:00 AM||PAS Giannina|
Resurgent PAOK take on a good PAS Giannina side on Saturday in Thessaloniki. PAOK have won their last five matches in all competitions, including three consecutive league wins. That has brought them back into contention in the congested playoff race. Though they didn’t score until six minutes from the end, there was a lot of good to come out of their 1-0 away win against Levadiakos last time out. The performances have improved and the team look to be on more solid footing at the moment heading into the rest of this crucial month.
PAS Giannina have not been as strong as their early season form, but Giannis Petrakis is still overseeing a very capable side. PAS are a tough team to beat and showed that fighting spirit against Panionios on Thursday. Though they were outplayed for nearly an hour, the team responded well down the stretch managing to tie the game 1-1 and pick up a creditable point. Jairo will miss out on Sunday’s match due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
PANETOLIKOS - PANIONIOS
Giannis Mantzourakis’ injury-riddled Panetolikos host Panionios in Matchday 2 action. The Agrinio club is without five first-team players for this clash, hardly the ideal situation with a difficult opponent like Panionios coming to town. Panetolikos will be buoyed however by their strong defensive performance against AEK. The cohesive backline and general doggedness of play at the back earned Panetolikos a respectable draw in Athens.
Despite persistent transfer rumors, Karim Ansarifard’s play continues to lead Panionios. The Iranian striker was impressive against PAS Giannina on Thursday scoring an absolutely superb goal. It will be quite the coup if Panionios can hold on to him and a couple other of their attacking talents. If Vladan Milojevic can keep the squad together then the quality is certainly there to contest for a playoff place.
PLATANIAS - LARISSA
Two teams coming off important midweek victories meet up in Chania on Sunday. Platanias take on Larisa as each side tries to build on recent wins. Platanias were perhaps the more impressive of the two as they swept past Panathinaikos on Thursday with a 1-0 win. It was a good performance by Giorgos Paraschos’ men who will attempt to regain their early season form with a second straight win. They may have to do so without Filip Stanisavljevic who picked up a knock against Panathinaikos.
A 2-1 victory over Veria was probably enough to placate Larisa supporters for the time being. Boos were ringing out at halftime of that match as Larisa found themselves 1-0 behind. A solid second half effort saw the Vyssini pull out a 2-1. That victory pulled them further away from the drop zone. The question for Sakis Tsiolis is whether this side can find consistency, especially away from home. The club have added many players in the January transfer window, their quality could determine a comfortable midtable finish or a fight against relegation.
On Monday evening, Panathinaikos returns home to play Kerkyra. The Trifylli are coming off a poor performance and result after losing to Platanias on Thursday. The loss may have effectively ended any remaining hopes of a title challenge heading into the second half of the season. While the general thinking has been that Marinos Ouzounidis has changed the team for the better, the latest defeat showed how deep Panathinaikos’ troubles are.
The Prasini will hope to rebound against an opponent who is having their own struggles. Kerkyra are having an up-and-down campaign though the consensus is more positive as relegation doesn’t appear to be a big concern at the moment. Michalis Grigoriou’s team does have some terrible away form they need to fix. The Faiakes are winless on their travels in five away matches and have scored only once in those fixtures. They must also make the trip to Athens without Brazilian Thuram, who was red-carded in the midweek 1-1 draw with Atromitos.