Derby Day as AEK Host Olympiacos (Matchday 21 Preview)

Derby Day as AEK Host Olympiacos
(Matchday 21 Preview)

 

The derby between AEK and Olympiacos takes center stage in Matchday 21 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague. AEK will desperately want the points in their bid for a playoff berth, while Olympiacos seek to keep or increase their big lead atop the standings.

Second-placed Panionios are the heavy favorites for the win when they take on relegation-fighting Iraklis on Sunday’s first kick-off. PAOK try to bounce back from Europa League disappointment as they entertain Veria.

Panathinaikos travel to face off against struggling Asteras Tripolis. The weekend opens up with an interesting fixture as Atromitos play versus Xanthi, a side fighting for a spot in the top 5.

Elsewhere, Platanias face the usually difficult trip to Agrinio to play against Panetolikos. PAS Giannina try to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive as they welcome Kerkyra to town.

Finally, a potentially decisive match will occur at the AEL FC Arena on Monday night. Larisa and Levadiakos do battle in a match-up with serious relegation implications.  


***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:  AEK - OLYMPIACOS

AEK 12:30 PM Olympiacos
Sun, 19-Feb

The AGONAsport Match of the Week could be none other than Sunday night’s derby at the Olympic Stadium in Athens between AEK and Olympiacos. One of Greek football’s traditional derbies, this has been a match that has produced some classic games over the years. And while this season the result won’t seemingly have a direct impact on the title race, the match’s importance cannot be diminished. 

Olympiacos lead AEK by 21 points with the Piraeus club topping the SuperLeague standings and merely counting the matchdays until they can mathematically clinch their 44th league title. However, this season hasn’t been as smooth sailing as one would be led to believe. Paulo Bento has been able to rack up the results with his team since his appointment this past summer, but the standard on the pitch hasn’t always been the best. The fact that this team hasn’t been easy on the eye has been a matter of discontent from large sections of the fan base. Thursday’s Europa League Round of 16 match against Osmanlispor offered evidence of this. Sections of supporters and the press criticized the team’s performance in another subpar European outing at home. Critics talked about a lack of creativity, a team without a clear system and players out of position. 

Still, there is the flip side. Olympiacos have lost only once in the league all season and have turned a close title race in the early days of the season into another walk in the park to the championship. Despite the perceived lack of style by some, this is still a team that appears to be head and shoulders above the rest in the country, as evidenced by the league table. 

AEK will have a point to prove at the Olympic Stadium against their long-time nemesis. Though the gap between the teams will still be massive even with a victory, AEK have a lot to play for on Sunday. The return of Manolo Jimenez to the club for a second spell has so far gone very well. AEK are undefeated in six matches, though they are coming off two draws in the Greek Cup and the SuperLeague. 

Last Monday’s 2-2 draw at Iraklis was a disappointing result. It was a reminder that while Jimenez has improved things, this team is far from the finished article. Besides pride, AEK will want the three crucial points on offer so as to keep the pressure up on Xanthi in the playoff race. A Xanthi loss and AEK win this weekend would put the Kitrinomavri into 5th place on goal difference.

AEK will be without the injured duo of Rodrigo Galo and Manuel Diaz for this match. The absence of the two South American defenders means a bit of a reshuffle of the backline. 


atromitos - xanthi 

Atromitos 8:00 AM Xanthi
Sat, 18-Feb

Atromitos hope to build on recent results in order to stage a revival as they await the arrival of Xanthi this weekend. In the early Saturday match, Ricardo Sa Pinto’s team seek to make it two wins in a row in the league after winning away to Asteras Tripolis last weekend. The return of manager Sa Pinto to the club along with the goals of the recently signed Abiola Dauda have bolstered a return to form for a side that was in the midst of a slump. 

Xanthi will be no pushovers for sure. Currently 5th in the standings, Razvan Lucescu’s men may have cooled off from their late 2016 red-hot form, but this is still a serious side with eyes set on Europe. The recent lack of goals will be a problem Lucescu must sort out as Xanthi have only managed five goals in their last six matches. That spell has only yielded two victories as a result. With AEK and to a lesser extent Platanias and PAS Giannina knocking on the door for the playoffs, Xanthi need to put together a few victories to remain in contention.


pas giannina - kerkyra

PAS Giannina 10:15 AM Kerkyra
Sat, 18-Feb

Kerkyra make the trip to play PAS Giannina on Saturday on quite the high. Last week’s victory over Levadiakos all but assured the Faiakes their top-flight survival. The 1-0 win may not have assured Micahlis Grigoriou’s side of safety mathematically speaking, however it brought the island club eight points above the drop zone with nine matches remaining. 

Giannina played their role in one of the matches of the season their last time out. Last Sunday’s 3-3 draw with Platanias was one of the best in the current SuperLeague campaign with plenty of goals, comebacks and chances galore. Now back at home, Giannis Petrakis’s team need the three points to continue with their outside shot to reach the playoffs. 


asteras tripolis - panathinaikos

Asteras Tripolis 12:30 PM Panathinaikos
Sat, 18-Feb

Asteras Tripolis and Panathinaikos meet up in Tripoli in this weekend’s Saturday night fixture. Both teams have been enduring a rough patch as of late. The difference being they are fighting on different ends of the table and Panathinaikos seems to be coming out of their poor form. That might be jumping the gun, however the Prasini picked up a 4-0 victory over Panetolikos last weekend. Panathinaikos supporters will hope to see their club build on that result and rise up higher from their current 4th-placed standing. 

Asteras began 2017 in good form only to suffer from a blackout in recent weeks. Dimitris Elefteropoulos has seen his side drop their last few matches falling back down to 12th in the table. Last week’s 1-0 home defeat to Atromitos particularly stung, especially on the heels of a narrow defeat to PAOK a week before that. Another loss this weekend could really send alarm bells ringing, though it can’t be avoided that this has been the most difficult stretch of the team’s schedule in recent weeks. The club have endured a mini-injury crisis and the next few weeks should see as many as five first-team players return from injury. 


panionios - iraklis

Panionios 8:00 AM Iraklis
Sun, 19-Feb

Two of the SuperLeague’s stories of the season will be on display as Panionios host Iraklis on Sunday. Panionios are the surprise package of the season. 20 games into the campaign, Vladan Milojevic has his team in 2nd place with European football on the horizon for next season. Though they sold off their best goals threat in the shape of Karim Ansarifard, Panionios have not stopped winning matches. Even last week’s 1-0 win in Veria was revealing. The Nea Smyrni side may not have been at their best, but they dug in and got the result in a way very good teams can do on an off-day. 

Iraklis’ problems have been widely reported both on and off the pitch this season. The club’s financial issues have been difficult to deal with and this has led to a team occupying last place in the league for most of the season. There has been no lack of fight however from this group of players and having nicked a result here and there now Savvas Pantelidis’ team have a real shot at avoiding the drop. In the relegation zone only on goal difference now after a good point against AEK last week, there is a growing feeling that despite all their problems, Iraklis have enough in the tank to pick up the points needed to avoid the drop. 


panetolikos - platanias

Panetolikos 10:15 AM Platanias
Sun, 19-Feb

Giorgos Paraschos’ Platanias head to Agrinio to battle against Panetolikos. This is perhaps not one of the more fashionable match-ups of the weekend. Upon closer inspection though this will be an interesting contest in its own right. Platanias are in good form at the moment and have risen to 7th in the table. The playoffs don’t look beyond this team considering recent performances and results. While that will be difficult to achieve, supporters seem quite content with how the team are faring this season. A win in a match like this would be exactly the type of result that could the Chania club push on and really fight for 5th position.

After defeating Atromitos the previous week, Panetolikos came crashing back down with a 4-0 defeat at Panathinaikos. The scoreline may have been cruel on Makis Chavos’ team as they conceded a flurry of late goals, but it also served to indicate that after a good start to the season this team has descended into midtable mediocrity. While there is no worry about relegation, there also doesn’t appear to be much to play for and that could be the cause of some unmotivated performances. Home form has saved the club this season with five of their six wins coming at the Panetolikos Stadium. Another home win this weekend could at least put them into a position to end the season on a positive note. 


paok - veria

PAOK 10:15 AM Veria
Sun, 19-Feb

A 3-0 thumping at the hands of Schalke on Thursday will need to psychologically overcome as PAOK take on Veria on Sunday. Vladan Ivic’s had high expectations heading into their Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg tie against the German club, however despite a strong start PAOK failed to rise to the occasion. Now with progression to the next round of the continental competition all but lost, the focus shifts back to the league. It is on the domestic front where PAOK have been on a tear in the last two months having 13 of their last 15 matches. With second place in the league still to play, the team cannot run risk of another letdown against lowly Veria.

The big news coming out of the Veria camp is the installation of manager Ratko Dostanic for the remainder of the season. The Serbian manager left Levadiakos late last year, but now finds work back in Greece a short while later. Dostanic is a respected tactician who will bring with him experience of the SuperLeague. That should help, however the question is whether this move will be enough to keep Veria up. Currently in last place, the signs are not looking good for the Vasilissa tou Vorra. The team did look slightly improved last weekend against Panionios, but they lacked the goal threat needed to rescue a point from the match. And it’s precisely goals that this team need. Veria have scored a paltry 11 goals in 20 matches and unless that stat improves it’s difficult to see how relegation can be avoided. 


larissa - levadiakos

Larissa 12:30 PM Levadiakos
Mon, 20-Feb

Monday’s match between Larisa and Levadiakos has all the makings of a classic relegation crunch clash. Separated by only three points (Larisa with 17, Levadiakos 14), this result could be absolutely crucial come the end of the season. Sakis Tsiolis’ Larisa have never been in real danger as far as occupying one of the bottom-two relegation places this season. That said, they have hovered just above the drop zone most of the season. After a winless run now stretching to six matches there is growing concern that the Vysinni are right in the middle of a relegation battle. Victory at the AEL FC Arena would perhaps give the necessary push in the right direction to remain the top flight, conversely a draw or worse yet a defeat could make for a nail-biting end to the season for supporters.

Levadiakos were comfortably midtable a few months’ back. However an awful run now seems them just above the drop on goal difference. Giannis Christopoulos continues to suggest his side will stay in the SuperLeague, but results will simply need to improve. Levadiakos played well in Kerkyra last week, however they came away with nothing from that game. While it’s a positive that performances are looking better, that will not be enough for a club in trouble. 

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