AEK-PAOK Preview: Lots On The Line In Dikefalo Derby
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 10
|AEK||12:30 PM (EST)||PAOK|
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis previews the matchday 10 Greek SuperLeague derby between the Dikefaloi AEK and PAOK at the OAKA Stadium.
The derby of the ‘Dikefalo’ is set for Sunday evening at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. AEK await the arrival of PAOK as the 2nd and 3rd-placed teams in the Greek Super League meet up for the first time this season.
This will be the first time the two clubs have faced off against one another since the Greek Cup Final last May which saw PAOK come out as the winners in a match that was preceded by major fan violence.
This year the Cup won’t be the main target for the two clubs, instead both have their eyes on the league title. AEK looked like the early favorites after defeating Olympiacos, however since then they have had a stumble or two as they try to keep near the top of the Super League while also playing in Europe for the first time in years. The Kitrinomavri’s Europa League campaign is going well thus far and Manolo Jimenez’s men are well-placed to challenge for a Round of 32 place with two group games remaining.
PAOK meanwhile were the victims of a giant-killing by Swedish outfit Ostersund back in the summer. While there was big disappointment to be knocked out of European competition so early, some believed it would actually help PAOK launch a title challenge. So far, so good for Razvan Lucescu’s team. PAOK are in 2nd place on 18 points, just one behind surprise leaders Atromitos. The Thessaloniki club bounced back from a derby defeat to Olympiacos two weeks ago to dispose of Asteras Tripolis last weekend.
The big news surrounding AEK is surely the loss of captain and midfielder Petros Mantalos. The Greek international tore his ACL last week toward the end of the match against Panionios. Jimenez will have to juggle his line-up a bit now in order to find a way to minimize the impact of Mantalos’ absence.
A knee injury looks set to sideline Brazilian Mauricio this weekend. This is a very tough blow for PAOK considering the midfielder’s current form. Mauricio scored both goals in last week’s 2-0 win over Asteras Tripolis.
AEK: Anestis, Bakakis, Helder Lopes, Vranjes, Galo, Simoes, Johansson, Christodoulopoulos, Bakasetas, Araujo, Livaja
PAOK: Rey, Matos, Zambrano, Varela, Leovac, Cimirot, Shakhov, Vierinha, El Kaddouri, Pelkas, Prijovic
11/2/17 AEK-AC Milan 0-0 (UEFA Europa League)
10/29/17 Panionios-AEK 0-1 (Greek Super League)
10/26/17 Apollon Larisa-AEK 0-7 (Greek Cup)
10/23/17 AEK-Atromitos 0-1 (Greek Super League)
10/19/17 AC Milan-AEK 0-0 (UEFA Europa League)
10/30/17 PAOK-Asteras Tripolis 2-0 (Greek Super League)
10/25/17 Apollon Pontou-PAOK 0-1 (Greek Cup)
10/22/17 Olympiacos-PAOK 1-0 (Greek Super League)
10/15/17 PAOK-Lamia 4-0 (Greek Super League)
9/30/17 Larisa-PAOK 1-1 (Greek Super League)
The man in the middle for this match-up will be Alexandros Aretopoulos from Trikala. The 38-year-old began his refereeing career in the 2007/08 season in the Greek Cup. After a few seasons officiating in the Football League, Aretopoulos made the jump to the Super League in the 2010/11 campaign. This season has refereed two Super League matches, one Europa League qualifier and two UEFA European Championship qualifiers at the U-21 and U-17 levels.
It should be a very interesting night at the Olympic Stadium. This is a rivalry that has always been big, but recent matches have seemed to raise its profile even more. This season the match looks more than ever like one that could have a real impact on the title race.
Jimenez’s team selection should be of interest. With AEK playing on Thursday and expending lots of energy in holding AC Milan to a 0-0 draw, it remains to be seen whether Jimenez keeps the faith with most of the starting eleven or opts for freshness.
This is another mental test for PAOK. When things appear to be going smoothly, the team seem to find ways to lose derbies like this in recent years. A victory would provide a big boost heading into the middle of the season. The longer either side remains near the top the greater the belief there will be that this year could be the one. All in all, it should make for intriguing viewing on Sunday.