A Point To Prove At The Karaiskakis: OLY-PAOK Preview
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 8
|Olympiacos||1:30 PM (EST)||PAOK|
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis previews the matchday 8 Greek SuperLeague derby between Olympiacos and PAOK at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
Olympiacos and PAOK are set to contest a fierce derby on Sunday night as part of Matchday 8 of the 2017/18 Greek Super League. Both sides go into the clash at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium with something to prove after contrasting starts to the season.
PAOK lead the Greek Super League after 7 matches overcoming some sluggish displays in the early matches to improve as of late. There have been times over the years where the Thessaloniki giants have been in similar positions, however they have ultimately been unable to claim a championship. Could this year be different? Supporters firmly believe that this is the season where the club can finally make the breakthrough and win the Super League.
For Razvan Lucescu and his players to do that they will have to deal with the pressure that comes with being on top of the table. Thus, Sunday’s match represents a massive test for the club, both with regards to the points on offer, but also psychologically. A defeat could indicate that this side still aren’t ready, while a win and even a draw could point to a team that is set to show that this year is different.
Defending champions Olympiacos have started the campaign poorly for the second straight season. Last year the rocky start was only in Europe, while this season finds Takis Lemonis’ side struggling domestically and on the continent.
A 4-3 win over Panionios last week suggests they are beginning to find their footing, but even in that win Olympiacos squandered a 3-1 lead within two minutes late on. The question for the Piraeus side is whether they can show the championship mentality and strength they have shown time and time again over the years when the pressure is on. Like PAOK, this result could have major bearing on the season for Olympiacos.
A victory would mean this team is once again on the right track. The three points would also send a strong signal to the rest of the league that the champions are back. Conversely, a defeat would mean that the term ‘crisis’ will continue to be bandied about going forward.
Lemonis will have a shortage of attacking options due to recent injuries. Seba was kicked during the Panionios match and his knee issue will see him miss the next two weeks.
Also out for Olympiacos is Emmanuel Emenike, Lemonis hopeful that the Nigerian striker will be fit to face Panathinaikos next week. Ben Nabouhane is also not ready to return and he will miss Sunday's match.
For Lucescu his real headache in the lead-up to this derby is with regard to his team selection. The PAOK boss has virtually his whole squad from which to select. The only absence will be defender Dorian Leveque who is still recovering from injury.
Olympiacos: Proto, Figueiras, Botia, Nikolaou, Elabdellaoui, Gillet, Odjidja, Fortounis, Carcela, Pardo, Ansarifard
PAOK: Rey, Matos, Zambrano, Crespo, Leovac, Mauricio, Shakhov, Vieirinha, El Kaddouri, Pelkas, Prijovic
Olympiacos - LWLL
10/18/17 Barcelona-Olympiacos 3-1 (UEFA Champions’ League)
10/14/17 Panionios-Olympiacos 3-4 (Greek Super League)
10/1/17 Olympiacos-Atromitos 0-1 (Greek Super League)
9/27/17 Juventus-Olympiacos 2-0 (UEFA Champions’ League)
9/24/17 AEK-Olympiacos 3-2 (Greek Super League)
PAOK - WDWWW
10/15/17 PAOK-Lamia 4-0 (Greek Super League)
9/30/17 Larisa-PAOK 1-1 (Greek Super League)
9/24/17 PAOK-PAS Giannina 1-0 (Greek Super League)
9/20/17 PAOK-Levadiakos 2-1 (Greek Cup)
9/16/17 PAOK-Panetolikos 1-0 (Greek Super League)
A tough match to call for sure. Predictably, the side that can best handle the pressure on the night will have the best shot at success. PAOK are certainly in better form, but with these sort of matches the form guide tends to be thrown out the window.
Olympiacos will have to find a way to break through a stingy PAOK backline. Lemonis has some absences in attack, but looks to be putting his faith in the likes of Kostas Fortounis, Felipe Pardo, and Karim Ansarifard to get the job done in attack.
For PAOK, Super League leading scorer Aleksandar Prijovic will be tasked with coming up with the goods. The Serbian striker has been in deadly form in front of goal for club and country and will surely be a handful for the Olympiacos center-backs.
All in all, it has the makings of a tense showdown at the Karaiskakis. A draw won’t dramatically change things for either team. And while this is not a final by any means, a victory for either side could provide a timely boost of confidence heading into the middle stage of the season.