Superleague Enters Final Third of the Season (Matchday 20 Preview)

SUPERLEAGUE ENTER FINAL THIRD OF THE SEASON
(Matchday 20 Preview)

 

The big derby may be missing from this weekend’s slate of matches in the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague, however there are many important ties in Matchday 20. 

Leaders Olympiacos look to earn some revenge on the only team that have beaten them in league play this season when they host struggling Larisa. 

It’s second away to third on Sunday as Xanthi host red-hot PAOK in the AGONAsport Match of the Week. Manolo Jimenez’s AEK try to keep up their recent surge when they travel to Thessaloniki to face off against Iraklis on Monday.

Kicking off the weekend games early on Saturday is second-placed Panionios travelling to take on Veria. Panathinaikos need improvement after a series of mediocre displays when they host Panetolikos. 

In a rematch of a recent Greek Cup match-up, PAS Giannina travel to Crete to meet up with Platanias. Asteras Tripolis and Atromitos collide in a midtable clash. Finally, Levadiakos are in desperate need of points and seek to find them in Kerkyra.


***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 - PAOK

Xanthi 10:15 AM PAOK
Sun, 12-Feb

Xanthi and PAOK meet for the second time in three days when they play on Sunday in the AGONAsport Match of the Week. The two teams met in a 1st Leg Greek Cup quarterfinal at the Xanthi FC Arena with PAOK coming out on top 2-1 on Thursday. Now the focus turns to the league as the teams face off again in the same stadium. Vladan Ivic’s PAOK are on an impressive tear. The Thessaloniki giants have won 13 of their last 14 matches in a wonderful stretch that has seen them climb to 2nd in the league. The title seems too far away, but a Greek Cup run and second in the league certainly looks attainable, especially on this form. The influential Leo Matos is out this weekend for PAOK. The Brazilian defender picked up four yellow cards and will miss the Xanthi match due to suspension.

Xanthi were knocked back from 2nd to 4th after last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Panionios. That was followed up by the Greek Cup defeat to PAOK and underlines a growing concern over the team’s form. After a fantastic finish to 2016 and start to 2017, the goals have dried up for Razvan Lucescu’s team. Younes Hamza is in a bit of a dry spell and after the Tunisian, there does not appear to be another player capable of scoring consistently. With the likes of AEK only three points away and Platanias and PAS Giannina also in with a shout, the pressure could begin to grow to clinch a playoff spot. Pablo de Lucas will be missing for Xanthi after receiving a red card in last week’s match against Panionios.


veria - panionios

Veria 8:00 AM Panionios
Sat, 11-Feb

Panionios appear to have a relatively straightforward task away to Veria this weekend. In the match that kicks off Matchday 20, Panionios head into the game in good form and also possessing one of the best away records in the division. Vladan Milojevic’s side go to Veria on the heels of last week’s 2-0 over Xanthi, which saw the Nea Smyrni club remain in second place alongside PAOK. Panionios will be without David N’gog and Kevin Tapoko as they both have been unable to overcome injuries this week.

Veria on the other hand have one of the worst away records in the SuperLeague and currently find themselves on a three-match losing run. Those recent defeats have seen the club slip down to last place on goal difference. Apostolis Terzis must find solutions knowing full well that the club’s top-flight survival is at stake. Veria enter a difficult set of matches with Panionios this weekend and then PAOK, Atromitos, and Panathinaikos all in the coming weeks.
 


asteras tripolis - atromitos

Asteras Tripolis 10:15 AM Atromitos
Sat, 11-Feb

Giorgos Korakakis is out and Ricardo Sa Pinto has taken his place ahead of Atromitos’ trip to Asteras Tripolis this weekend. The change in manager is perhaps not a surprise especially after Atromitos’ struggles as of late. The team have fallen from near the top of the table down to 9th after a terrible run. Sa Pinto takes over in his second stint with the club after leading them in 2014-15. Whether he can have an immediate effect like Manolo Jimenez had had at AEK remains to be seen. Sa Pinto has started well with his side managing to pick up a 0-0 draw away to Olympiacos in the 1st leg of a Greek Cup quarterfinal this week.

Asteras welcome Atromitos on Saturday on the back of a couple of stinging defeats. The first occurred last Sunday in a 3-2 loss away to PAOK. Asteras battled well in the match and were lauded by many observers for playing their part in one of the SuperLeague’s matches of the season. Despite the defeat, there was a growing optimism that this side was improving week by week. Fast forward to Wednesday and a heavy Greek Cup defeat to Panathinaikos (4-0) and supporters must be left scratching their heads. Which Asteras side is the real one? This will be a good test for Dimitris Elefteropoulos’ team. After playing many of the league’s best teams in recent weeks, now there is a real opportunity to battle against teams in and around Asteras in the table. How the club fare in the coming weeks will determine how high up the table they end up finishing.
 


OLYMPIACOS - LARISSA

Olympiacos 12:30 PM Larissa
Sat, 11-Feb

The last time Olympiacos and Larisa met, the Erythrolefki were upset by their counterparts at the AEL FC Arena. This weekend, the two sides meet again with Paulo Bento hoping his team can avenge their sole league defeat of the season. 

While Olympiacos’ lead at the top of the table suggests they are a shoo-in for the championship, there are still murmurs of discontent from some corners of supporters with regard to the team’s overall quality of play. A 0-0 draw against Atromitos in a first leg Greek Cup quarterfinal this weekend certainly didn’t help matters. Good play or not, the Piraeus club have swept through the league with relative ease this season. Another victory is expected to keep their 13-point lead intact or widen the gap even more. 

Larisa may have begun the season with hopeful expectations, however two-thirds of the way through the campaign, there is a real battle to avoid relegation. Anything gained from this match would be an added bonus for a side producing a series of disjointed performances recently. That said, Larisa’s chances of avoiding the drop will be determined down the stretch in matches others than this one.


KERKYRA - LEVADIAKOS

Kerkyra 8:00 AM Levadiakos
Sun, 12-Feb

Slowly but surely, Kerkyra appear to be distancing themselves away from the relegation fight. They could take their biggest step yet to confirming their survival with a victory over Levadiakos on Sunday. Michalis Grigoriou’s team picked up a valuable point last week against Larisa. Though they conceded a late goal, the Faiakes found the resolve to hit back quickly and score an equalizer in the 84th minute. Now back at home, where the club have earned three of their four wins this season, there is real pressure to defeat a Levadiakos side who have been abysmal in the last few months. Paul Keita will be missing for Kerkyra this weekend after picking up a knock against Larisa. 

They came close, but Levadiakos lost yet again last weekend against Platanias. Not only are they bottom of the form table, but the Livadeia side is now right in the thick of the race for the drop. Despite Levadiakos’ horrendous form, there is some good news ahead of this weekend’s match. Vaggelis Mantzios was cleared from injury and is set to take his place in the line-up against Kerkyra. Mantzios is then set to return, though there is no place in the squad for Zisis Karahalios who was red-carded in the team’s last match against Platanias.


platanias - pas giannina

Platanias 10:15 AM PAS Giannina
Sun, 12-Feb

Platanias and PAS Giannina collide in one of the weekend’s top match-ups. Though both sides are expected to finish outside the places for Europe, these are two competitive teams who on their day can give any side a match. Platanias are a solid side who have lost only once in their last six matches. Giorgos Paraschos’ team are also very difficult to beat at home, losing only one time in 9 matches. It won’t be easy for Giannina. Even red-hot AEK were stymied in Greek Cup play this week as they were held to a 0-0 draw. Giannis Stathis misses out for Platanias after incurring a red card last weekend versus Levadiakos.

PAS Giannina have endured some struggles as of late, having lost their first half of the season form. Still, Giannis Petrakis and his players are not out of the playoff hunt yet. That said, they are currently five points off of 5th place meaning that the club need to begin making a run sooner rather than later. PAS are coming off a 1-1 home draw with Panathinaikos last week. Petrakis has nearly a full squad from which to choose. The Giannina manager will only be without Andi Lila (suspension) for this match with Themistoklis Tzimopoulos cleared to play after joining in full training this week.
 


PANATHINAIKOS - PANETOLIKOS

Panathinaikos 12:30 PM Panetolikos
Sun, 12-Feb

Points are needed by the hosts when Panathinaikos welcome Panetolikos in this week’s Sunday evening kick-off. Marinos Ouzounidis has seen his side draw four of their last six matches and fall to 4th in the table. Last week saw more points dropped in the 1-1 draw away to PAS Giannina. It remains to be seen whether this match against Panetolikos will see the debut of Guillermo Molins. The Uruguayan winger signed for the club this week and could feature this weekend. Panathinaikos will hope Molins can recapture his form with Malme from the last few years and help a sputtering Prasini attack.

A 1-0 win over Atromitos lifted Panetolikos out of the doldrums of a slump last weekend. Makis Chavos and company were desperate for those points as the Agrinio club went up to 10th in the standings. At home this is a genuinely difficult team to play. Away from home however, the club’s form has been quite poor with a single victory in 9 attempts this season.
 


iraklis - aek

Iraklis 12:30 PM AEK
Mon, 13-Feb

AEK will want to keep up their superb form and dent Iraklis’ survival hopes even further when the two teams meet on Monday in Thessaloniki. The Manolo Jimenez effect is in full swing for AEK. The Spaniard’s second stint with the club has begun in superb style. The numbers speak for themselves with four wins and two draws in six matches along with a 15-0 goals scored/goals allowed record. The Kitrinomavri’s form has come out of nowhere as the club were in a pretty decent-sized slump under Jimenez’s predecessor, Jose Morais. 

Iraklis did little to convince anyone they could stay up with last week’s 3-0 defeat at Olympiacos. The performance more than the result was disheartening. Though they are struggling to win matches, Savvas Pantelidis’ men are still within reach of safety with 10 matches remaining. However, they must begin to pick up some victories, especially at the Kaftantzoglio Stadium where they have won only once this season.
 

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