Athenian Derby at the OAKA
(MATCHDAY 26 PREVIEW)
It's all about the Athens derby this weekend as AEK and Panathinaikos partake in one of Greek football’s biggest matches.
Matchday 26 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague is headlined by that rivalry, however important matches abound as the season approaches its conclusion.
Olympiacos with new manager Takis Lemonis at the helm will try put a stop to the rot as they tangle with Platanias on Saturday night. The league leaders are six points ahead of Panionios who are back at home to take on Atromitos the following day.
PAOK host a Larisa team who also have a new manager as Andre Paus was appointed this week.
A trio of matches have direct relegation implications. The most eye-catching is the one between Levadiakos and Veria on Saturday. Sunday sees Iraklis and Asteras Tripolis in tough away matches. Iraklis visiting Kerkyra while Asteras head to Agrinio to battle with Panetolikos.
The action kicks off on Saturday with the early game between PAS Giannina and Xanthi.
***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. All time are listed in EST, which is SIX hours BEHIND the local Greek time (due to the time change in the USA).
GAME OF THE WEEK: aek - panathinaikos
|AEK||12:30 PM (EST)||Panathinaikos|
The league’s best team over the last two months try to keep that momentum going as AEK welcome Panathinaikos on Sunday night at the Olympic Stadium. This Athens derby comes with the usual passion and pride on the line like the ones before it. However, playoff places are also at stake.
AEK have come out of nowhere since Manolo Jimenez was appointed in January. In his second stint with the club, Jimenez has gone undefeated since his arrival. The likes of Olympiacos and PAOK have both been beaten and now the club try to claim the scalp of Panathinaikos too. Jimenez has the team well placed to finish amongst the playoff places and also to win the Greek Cup. Jimenez will welcome the return of a recently injured duo this weekend for the derby. Ognjen Vrnajes and Jakob Johannson return to the team after a layoff as they aim to help their side claim the three points.
Panathinaikos find themselves in the midst of a difficult set of fixtures where they play all of the other sides in the league’s top five. Marinos Ouzounidis’ men will be buoyed by the fact that they are coming off a 1-0 derby win over Olympiacos just before the international break. Now with AEK to come this weekend and then Panionios and PAOK, it will be a testing time for the Prasini. However, positive results would be crucial in entering the playoffs with some real momentum.
Paul Jose M’Poku is back for Panathinaikos. After representing his country during the international midweek, M’Poku has made a full recovery to become fit again for the AEK game. Also shrugging off injury is Robin Lod who will line up against AEK.
pas giannina - xanthi
|PAS Giannina||8:00 AM (EST)||Xanthi|
PAS Giannina and Xanthi meet up at the Zosimades in the first game of Matchday 26 on Saturday afternoon. Both teams enjoyed strong starts to the campaign, but are also similar in the fact that in 2017 they have fallen down the table. PAS are in 9th at the moment, while Xanthi are in 7th. Giannis Petrakis’ Giannina team have slipped down the table enough to ensure that they are no longer in the playoff hunt, while Xanthi are still within striking distance even if their form has taken a dip.
Apostolos Skondras will miss this match due to injury for Giannina. Younes Hamza and Khassa Camara have returned from international duty for Tunisia and Mauritania respectively, and will be available for selection from Xanthi boss Razvan Lucescu.
levadiakos - veria
|Levadiakos||10:15 AM (EST)||Veria|
One of the weekend’s most important matches takes place in Levadia. Home side Levadiakos and Veria clash for a massive relegation tie. The result could have major bearing on who goes down. Victory for Levadiakos could amount to a real shot at safety especially if other results go their way in the coming weeks. Essentially, a win for Giannis Christopoulos’ team would condemn Veria to the drop as they would be six points adrift with only four games to play.
Levadiakos celebrate the return of Nwankwo Obiora this weekend. The veteran Nigerian player has missed the entire season through injury, but is now fit for the last part of the season. Veria have endured a chaotic lead-up to this match. Players have skipped some practices this week in a dispute over unpaid wages. The club was able to give some of the wages to the players who began training again during the midweek with Ratko Dostanic even holding double sessions to bring the players back to prime condition.
olympiacos - platanias
|Olympiacos||12:30 PM (EST)||Platanias|
Takis Lemonis returns to the bench for a third stint this weekend when Olympiacos host Platanias. Lemonis has found success with the club in his previous two reigns as boss and the Olympiacos hierarchy are hoping he can see out the rest of this campaign and lead the Erythrolefki to the title.
Certainly, Olympiacos are in need of an injection of motivation and fresh ideas. The team are on an absolutely awful run at the moment having lost four of their last six and seeing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the title race now cut to six points. Lemonis is rumored to be working day and night to prepare the side and is said to be considering Marko Marin for a return to the line-up with Tarik Elyounoussi missing for Saturday’s match.
Platanias meanwhile have the league’s best form with the exception of AEK. Giorgos Paraschos’ men have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season and despite AEK’s splendid form, Platanias are only two points away from the playoffs. A victory at the Karaiskakis Stadium would provide a huge boost to the club’s playoff dreams.
PANIONIOS - ATROMITOS
|Panionios||8:00 AM (EST)||Atromitos|
Panionios look to bounce back as they take on Atromitos this weekend. Had Vladan Milojevic’s team not gone down to defeat at PAOK last time out, then they could have further cut into Olympiacos’ lead at the top of the table. As is, the Nea Smyrni club have been enjoying a fantastic campaign and while the title still seems difficult to grab in the remaining matches, certainly a spot in the playoffs and perhaps second place remain motivating factors for the final few matches.
Atromitos’ faint playoff hopes seem to have evaporated in the last few matches. While Ricardo Sa Pinto’s side have been consistent enough, they have fallen eight points off the pace thanks mainly to AEK setting a blistering pace. The thoughts and prayers of all involved with the club have been given to Giorgos Zisopoulos who lost his father to cancer this week. The player is expected to miss training for the funeral on Friday, but is slated to return to the team for this game.
kerkyra - iraklis
|Kerkyra||10:15 AM (EST)||Iraklis|
There is perhaps no better time for Iraklis to take on Kerkyra as the Thessaloniki side travel to the island for a match this Sunday. Iraklis are in dire need of points as with each passing week relegation becomes a greater possibility. While Iraklis have earned plaudits for their performances this season, especially considering the numerous off-the-pitch issues plaguing the club, the reality is that wins have been extremely hard to come by. Two wins out of 25 matches tells it’s own story, but the club have managed 10 draws showing they don’t go down without a fight. That does not change the fact that Savvas Pantelidis and his players need wins down the stretch to survive.
Kerkyra could be ripe for the picking if recent clues are anything to go by. There is the matter that they achieved their goal of staying up fairly early and since haven’t had the pressure of perhaps motivation to need to win. Their form has been decent, but results like last matchday’s 4-0 defeat at Veria suggest that there is a level of complacency creeping into the team. There are rumors surrounding the future of manager Michalis Grigoriou and a situation with Senegalese midfielder Paul Keita recently which could see him dropped from the team. It all amounts to Iraklis’ chances of picking up a rare win seemingly more attainable. Kerkyra are a strong home side however and Iraklis at this stage can take nothing for granted.
panetolikos - asteras tripolis
|Panetolikos||10:15 AM (EST)||Asteras Tripolis|
Asteras Tripolis need the points as they face a tough away fixture in Agrinio against Panetolikos on Sunday. If Staikos Vergetis can lead his men to a victory in this difficult tie then avoiding relegation could become a reality. Conversely, another defeat would plunge the team into real danger. Currently, Asteras are six points clear of the bottom two, but things could change quickly in these final weeks.
While Vergetis has returned to help save Asteras’ season, Makis Chavos has been kept on by Panetolikos. Chavos signed a deal this week that will see him finish this campaign off with the team and give him a chance to lead the team into next season. The club seem to want stability as though Chavos has not exactly led the team to any massive improvement, he is still seen as the right man to lead the club forward.
Panetolikos will be without defender Dimitris Koutromanos though Alvaro Rey did train this week and will likely feature. For Asteras, the good news is that Kostas Triantafyllopoulos is set for a return to the squad. The 23-year-old defender has been sorely missed all season by the Arkades after picking up a serious injury at the start of the season. After playing in a reserves match this week, Triantafyllopoulos is expected to be given some time by Vergetis in the final games of the season.
PAOK - larissa
|PAOK||10:15 AM (EST)||Larissa|
PAOK seek to finish the season strong as they host Larisa this weekend. For Vladan Ivic’s side there is certainly a feeling of what might have been had they not suffered through a patchy run of form in late fall. Considering Olympiacos’ recent troubles, it’s certainly a valid question to consider what PAOK could have achieved this season without a points deduction and with more consistent form before the New Year.
As is, there is still a chance for Europe and specifically the Champions’ League qualifiers via the playoffs and the focus must be there now. Aleksandar Prijovic is still out through injury ahead of this match.
Larisa meanwhile come to Toumba with a new manager in tow. Sakis Tsiolis left the club following Matchday 25. The new boss is Andre Paus, a 52-year-old Dutch coach who most recently spent two seasons at Anorthosis. Paus will be charged with helping the team find stability and consistency in the remaining matches. Though they have had a difficult campaign, Larisa appear to be well on their way to safety as they now are currently eight points above the relegation places.