Olympiacos-PAOK Takes Center Stage
(Matchday 8 Preview)
The derby between Olympiacos and PAOK is the AGONAsport Match of the Week and the headlining fixture in Matchday 8 of the Greek SuperLeague. The two title challengers and traditional North-South foes meet at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Sunday evening. Olympiacos top the standings after five matches with 12 points, while PAOK are currently in 5th place on 8 points (after a three points deduction from last season) and are the league’s only remaining unbeaten side.
New AEK manager Jose Morais faces a stiff test on Saturday when his club hosts Panionios. Panathinaikos, so disappointing in last week’s home defeat to Xanthi, will look to rebound as they play away to Veria in the sole Monday match.
Atromitos will seek to continue their good form ahead of their away trip to Iraklis. PAS Giannina and Larisa will meet at the Zosimades while Panetolikos will want to keep up their good start of the season away to Levadiakos.
Besides AEK-Panionios, the weekend kicks off with two other Saturday matches. Kerkyra, in vital need of points, host Asteras Tripolis while Platanias and Xanthi do battle in Crete.
*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: OLYMPIACOS - PAOK
The AGONSAsport Match of the Week could be none other than the derby between Olympiacos and PAOK. Always a big match, in recent years the matches of Olympiacos and PAOK have become even more significant. PAOK have become one of the main challengers to Olympiacos in league play in recent years. While Olympiacos have brushed them aside with regard to winning the championship, PAOK have found some joy in the head-to-head matches involving the two clubs.
Olympiacos come into this weekend’s derby in decent form. Having lost to Larisa and APOEL a few weeks ago, Paulo Bento’s team have since defeated AEK in a one-sided derby, come through a tough match away to Panionios (2-0), and produced arguably their best performance yet this season in a 4-1 win in the Europa League over Astana on Thursday. Victory over PAOK would surely signal the end of whatever crisis, big or small, the club had been in since the summer. Not only for purposes of form and pride would the victory over PAOK be important, however a win would deal a tremendous title blow to PAOK. At this early stage of the season, PAOK would find themselves 7 points adrift of Olympiacos should they lose on Sunday.
PAOK are coming off a 2-0 defeat away to Qarabag in the Europa League. This was preceded by a 1-0 win over Iraklis last weekend in SuperLeague play. While Vladan Ivic has his team playing some decent football this season, a lack of killer instinct in front of goal has hurt PAOK. This has led to some inconsistent results both in the league and in Europe. PAOK are the SuperLeague’s only unbeaten team and it would be a major positive should they leave the Karaiskakis Stadium on Sunday with a point or three.
As far as injury news goes, for Olympiacos the main concerns center around midfielders Luka Milivojevic and Kostas Fortounis, both of whom were substituted against Astana. Both players are expected to feature against PAOK though it could be a game-time decision.
KERKYRA - ASTERAS TRIPOLIS
|Kerkyra||9:00 AM||Asteras Tripolis|
Kerkyra and Asteras Tripolis face just about a must-win match on Saturday as they open up Matchday 8. Michalis Grigoriou’s Kerkyra side have lost their last four matches after opening up the season with a win versus Larisa. That poor run of form sees them second from bottom with three points and already seemingly in a battle to avoid the drop. A defensive injury crisis ahead of this weekend is not helping with preparation for Asteras. Vladimir Dimitrovski is out for a month and he joins a list of injury victims that includes fellow defenders Tasos Venetis and Mathieu Gomes.
Asteras are only above Kerkyra on goal difference and themselves have struggled mightily to start this season. Dimitris Elefteropoulos succeeded Makis Chavos two matches ago and the feeling is that the side are beginning to find their feet. Some evidence to confirm this could be found in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Platanias. Those three points were the first for Asteras this season. Another victory this weekend could propel the club up the table, though a defeat could have them pegged back to potentially bottom of the standings. Cedric Gondo misses out for Asteras as the Ivory Coast forward has suffered a thigh strain which could see him out for two weeks.
PLATANIAS - XANTHI
Platanias and Xanthi were two sides going in different directions until last weekend. It was then when Platanias, who have had a best-ever start to the season, went down away to Asteras and a previously winless Xanthi shocked all of Greek football by defeating Panathinaikos, in Leoforos no less.
Another win for Xanthi and they will find themselves even on points with Platanias in what would be a very quick turnaround after a rough beginning to the campaign. Conversely, all the good work done by Platanias in their first few matches could be undone by a second straight defeat. It has all the makings of a very interesting contest in Chania.
AEK - PANIONIOS
AEK take on Panionios at the Olympic Stadium and the Kitrinomavri will have a new manager on the bench. Jose Morais replaced Temur Kestbaia as head coach earlier this week. AEK may have won 2-1 away to Larisa last Monday; however that was not enough for Ketsbaia to keep his job. The defeat to Olympiacos a few weeks’ back and the lack of a cohesive style of play seemed to be the main reasons why Ketsbaia was let go of.
Morais, who most recently coach Antalyaspor in Turkey and was an assistant under Jose Mourinho for several seasons, comes into the position with a very difficult first game. Morais will face his first match for AEK without several regulars who will be missing. Patito Rodriguez and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos are out due to suspension while Joleon Lescott and Ronald Vargas are long-term injury absentees.
Panionios may have gone down to Olympiacos at home last weekend, but the Nea Smyrni side have shown they will be a very difficult side to beat this season. European football is surely on the minds of supporters of the club and a victory over AEK could send a clear message to their league rivals that they are for real. Spyros Risvanis is set to start after overcoming his recent injury problem while there is a return for Ben Nabouhane. Valentinos Vlahos is suspended due to red card last week.
IRAKLIS - ATROMITOS
Iraklis lost again last weekend against PAOK in a Thessaloniki derby and will look to rebound against improving Atromitos. Former Iraklis boss Nikos Papadopoulos had given his resignation to the Iraklis board for a while; however it had not yet been accepted until this week. The man brought in to replace Papadopoulos is Giannis Amanatidis. Amanatidis was promoted from coach of the Iraklis youth team for the last couple seasons. The 34-year-old was considered the most logical choice for the job the way things stand with the club’s financial position. The belief is that Iraklis aren’t playing all that bad this season, however with only two points to show for their efforts thus far morale is low within the camp.
That could all change with a first victory of the season, but in order to do so the Giraios must defeat an Atromitos side on the up. New Atromitos Giorgos Korakakis has led his side to seven points in the three matches he has coached the team and suddenly the club are in midtable and looking up. Last weekend, Atromitos saw off the challenge of Veria 1-0.
Iraklis have injury doubts with regards to Pavlos Kyriakidis, Emmanuel Zambazis, and Nikos Ziabaris. Giorgos Saramantos will serve his red-card suspension for this match as well. Atromitos’ main injury worry has to do with French attacker Nicolas Diguiny who will be out of this match, but is set to return next week against Olympiacos.
LEVADIAKOS - PANETOLIKOS
Levadiakos will try to dust off the cobwebs as they welcome Panetolikos on Sunday. Since they didn’t play last week’s match against PAS Giannina due to public safety concerns from a local earthquake in Giannina, Levadiakos last played a competitive fixture on October 1st in a 1-1 home draw with Larisa. It remains to be seen whether Ratko Dostanic’s side will appear well-rested or rather rusty from a lack of matches. Chumbinho is the lone Levadiakos missing from possible selection.
Panetolikos shouldn’t be rusty as they come off a 4-0 shellacking of Kerkyra last weekend. It was a rampant win over an over-matched side and Giannis Mantzourakis has seemingly put together a solid team this season. Another victory away in Livadeia would certainly be a step in the right direction for a side brimming with confidence.
PAS GIANNINA - LARISSA
|PAS Giannina||11:15 AM||Larissa|
It will be Epirus against Thessaly on Sunday when PAS Giannina host Larisa at the Zosimades Stadium. Giannina have started well and are coming off of a long break as their game last weekend against Levadiakos was postponed due to the earthquake that struck the area. A victory on Sunday could put the Ajax tou Epirou into a top four position. Noe Acosta and Higor Vidal are both unavailable to coach Giannis Petrakis due to injury.
Larisa meanwhile are looking to rebound after Monday’s home defeat to AEK. Aggelos Anastasiadis’ team fell behind 2-0 during the first half and though they responded with a goal were ultimately unable to come back and take something from the fixture. The Vissini will be without goalkeeper Gennadi Xenodochof while Nico Varela is doubtful.
VERIA - PANATHINAIKOS
Panathinaikos will be eager to avoid another shock defeat when they travel to face Veria in the Matchday 8 Monday match-up. Xanthi delivered the Prasini a big blow last Sunday and Andrea Strammacioni’s side will need nothing less than three points against Veria. They will have to pick up the win there though without three key players. Zeca, Christopher Samba, and Cristian Ledesma all picked up knocks in the Europa League match on Thursday in Liege against Standard and all three will be missing this weekend.
Veria will look to take lessons from Xanthi’s approach last weekend as they look for an upset. Thomas Grafas’ men may be further down the table, but now their fixture list will become a tad easier in the coming weeks. Having already played Olympiacos, AEK, and PAOK, Veria will face Panathinaikos before they play some more inviting (on paper) fixtures which include three home matches out of their next four in the league. If Veria want to stay out of the drop zone they would do well to claim some points from these matches in the coming month.