2017 Begins With Matchday 1… (Matchday 1 Preview)

2017 BGEINS WITH MATCHDAY 1
(MATCHDAY 1 PREVIEW)

 

The Greek SuperLeague resumes this midweek after a holiday break. On tap for matches between Tuesday and Thursday are the postponed matches from Matchday 1 from back in August when the league was delayed for two weeks. The “opening” round of fixtures does not throw up any big derbies, however the matches do have importance all up and down the league table.

Leaders Olympiacos look to maintain their big lead atop the standings when they host visiting Asteras Tripolis on Wednesday. On that same day AEK are also at home to Panetolikos while Kerkyra and Atromitos clash and Larisa play host to Veria in a bottom of the table battle.

The action kicks off on Tuesday with two matches as PAOK make the trip to take on Levadiakos while Iraklis will have their hands full against a Xanthi side that ended 2016 in red-hot form. 

Finally on Thursday, two interesting matches round out the Matchday 1 schedule. Two playoff contenders Panionios and PAS Giannina meet in Nea Smyrni in the AGONAsport Match of the Week while in Crete, Panathinaikos visit home side Platanias. 

*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:  PANIONIOS - PAS Giannina

Panionios 8:00 AM PAS Giannina
Thurs, 5-Jan

One of the top midweek matches must be Panionios taking on PAS Giannina and is our AGONAsport Match of the Week. Panionios are currently 4th, three points ahead of 6th place PAS. The Nea Smyrni club are facing a stern test in January of holding on to some of their best players. Speculation is rife over the interest of the club’s two Iranian players, Karim Ansarifard and Masoud Shojaei as well as fellow attacking player Ben. Whether the club can manage to hold on to these players could ultimately determine the fate of their season. 

Giannina boss Giannis Petrakis has no such apparent worries about losing his star names this January, however he does have injury worries ahead of the trip to Nea Smyrni. Thodoris Berios and Pedro Conde are unavailable for the midweek fixture and thus Petrakis will be unable to select two of his usual starters.  


IRAKLIS - XANTHI

Iraklis 10:15 AM Xanthi
Tues, 3-Jan

Two clubs in completely different places face off in Thessaloniki in the match that opens up the delayed Matchday 1. Iraklis and Xanthi could not be much further away from each other with regard to their league standing and situations surrounding the club. Iraklis are rock bottom of the SuperLeague and to add to that woe is the abundance of off-the-pitch issues that are wreaking havoc with the club. Players are being sold off, while others are threatening to leave due to the club’s terrible financial situation which is effecting everything including the state of the pitch. It’s difficult to see how Savvas Pantelidis can save this team from relegation.

Xanthi on the flip side are riding high at the moment. Razvan Lucescu has steered his team into second in the table amidst a fantastic 10-match unbeaten run. After some indifferent early season form where Lucescu’s position was being called into question, the manager and players have rallied to fire themselves up the table. Is it sustainable? At this point there doesn’t appear any reason as to why Xanthi could not push on for a European place. 


LEVADIAKOS - PAOK

Levadiakos 12:30 PM PAOK
Tues, 3-Jan

PAOK will be seeking a continuation of their uptick in form as they are away to Levadiakos on Tuesday. Vladan Ivic’s team had a bad patch of results in the league through parts of November and December, however they seemed to bounce back with two consecutive wins before the winter break. While a title challenge seems long gone (currently 14 points adrift of Olympiacos), PAOK are only five points from second place and will feel a few victories to begin the new year could see them back up amongst the top three. 

Levadiakos supporters hope that their side put in plenty of work over the last couple weeks. Their club was one of the worst sides in the league during December as they lost three matches on the trot, giving up 12 goals in those games. The club are desperate for reinforcements in the January transfer window and seems to need a fresh injection of quality in order to avoid a relegation battle.

Ratko Dostanic has four players questionable for this match. Dimitris Machairas, Lossemy Karaboue, Gary Coulibaly, and Mattheos Kapsakis will all be game-time decisions.


KERKYRA - ATROMITOS

Kerkyra 8:00 AM Atromitos
Wed, 4-Jan

Kerkyra aim to rebound from an uninspiring finish to 2016 when they host Atromitos. The island side were thrashed in a 5-0 home defeat to PAOK last time out, easily their worst performance of the season. That loss uncovered fresh doubt about the club’s ability to maintain their top-flight status as they are currently only four points above the drop zone. This at a time when the club are attempting to hold on to Brazilian attacker Thuram who is high on the wish list of many SuperLeague clubs this transfer window. 

Atromitos have had a busy couple weeks with the pick-up of a couple new faces. Vaggelis Platellas and Pavlos Kyriakidis have come over from AEK and Iraklis respectively in order to bolster the squad. This will hopefully help Giorgos Korakakis as the club shoot for a European berth.


LARISSA - VERIA

Larissa 10:15 AM Veria
Wed, 4-Jan

A massively important game takes place at the AEL FC Arena on Wednesday as relegation candidates meet with Larisa hosting Veria. Both sides are currently occupying positions at the wrong end of the league table. Veria are in the drop zone at the moment with 8 points, while Larisa have only two more and thus this match takes on vital importance for both clubs. A win by Larisa could see them go five points clear of the two relegation places, while Veria would leapfrog their opponents with a victory seeing them leave the relegation spots for the first time in a while this season. 

Larisa have brought in five new players already since their last match as the club look to shake-up the existing roster. With at least another player or two expected to follow suit, Sakis Tsiolis will at least have more options heading into 2017. 

Veria meanwhile saw 21 new players come into the side this past summer with 27 players leaving the club. That is one explanation of the team’s miserable form as the club have managed only one win all season. The chaos surrounding the squad does not appear to be abating with several players tabbed to leave the club in January and new acquisitions expected to come in. 

All in all, these are two sides with little consistency on and off the pitch at the moment and that is reflected in their form and league position. Nonetheless, this should be an intriguing fixture and the three points on offer absolutely crucial if either club can grab them.


AEK - PANETOLIKOS

AEK 10:15 AM Panetolikos
Wed, 4-Jan

11 points adrift of leaders Olympiacos, AEK know they have no more room for error as 2017 begins and they take on Panetolikos in their first match of the year. Jose Morais’ team ended last year with a controversial, but ultimately disappointing, 1-1 draw with PAS Giannina. That result left the Kitrinomavri in 5th place after 12 matches and with their title challenge in tatters. It is a certainty that the club will make moves in the January window after an underwhelming start to the season.

Panetolikos is looking like the quintessential midtable side this season. 9th in the table and 8th in the form standings, Giannis Mantzourakis’ team are in no danger of relegation. However, though they are comfortable about avoiding the drop, there doesn’t appear to be the requisite quality to do anything more. It will slightly worrisome fans that the club have seen four departures since their last match with the likes of Tomane, Wouter Corstjens, Emmanuel Ledesma, and Osmar Ferreyra leaving the team. Surely, reinforcements will be sought this month in order to ensure the squad has the depth needed to see out the season. 


OLYMPIACOS - ASTERAS TRIPOLIS

Olympiacos 12:30 PM Asteras Tripolis
Wed, 4-Jan

Olympiacos look to pick up in 2017 where they left off in 2016 as they welcome Asteras Tripolis to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Paulo Bento’s team may not be playing superbly in terms of attractive football, but the league leaders are getting the results they need and they have opened up a 9-point lead atop the SuperLeague table. Bento has brought about consistency since a turbulent summer in which the team looked increasingly vulnerable on the domestic front. The Piraeus side have been formidable recently however and seem in no apparent danger of winning yet another league title. 

Their opponents on Wednesday, Asteras Tripolis, have had a challenging start to the season. However, since the appointment of Dimitris Elefteropoulos the club have inched away from the relegation zone and are currently in 11th place. Elefteropoulos has engaged in some reshuffling of the squad with Cristian Chavez leaving the team with new signings Michalis Manias and Yevhen Selin coming into the side. 


PLATANIAS - PANATHINAIKOS

Platanias 12:30 PM Panathinaikos
Thurs, 5-Jan

Panathinaikos face a tricky trip to Chania to face off against Platanias. The Prasini had looked good for a couple matches after the appointment of Marinos Ouzounidis, but finished 2016 with a poor display in a 0-0 draw with Larisa. Ouzounidis would have relished the winter break and the ability to have the time to explain his ideas and methods to his new team. As expected, transfer rumors are running rampant for the Trifylli. One sure thing is that Victor Ibarbo looks certain to leave the club after missing a series of training sessions. 

Platanias ended 2016 with a 3-0 win over Atromitos. That was the team’s first victory in nine matches, a poor run that saw the Crete club go from the top half of the table down to as low as 13th. Giorgos Paraschos will be hoping his team can recapture their early season form. Against Panathinaikos, Platanias will be without Bosnian defender Ognjen Gnjatic due to an accumulation of cards and potentially captain Fanouris Goundoulakis.

 
by: Giorgos Tsitsonis. Contact the writer at tsitsonisg.agonasport@gmail.com
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