Busy Road Ahead for AEK
By Greg Gavalas
AGONAsport’s Greg Gavalas talks about AEK’s difficult schedule ahead over the next 37 days.
The Greek Super League of season 2017/18 is proving to be one of the most exciting in a long time. Following the new year break, neither Olympiakos, AEK nor PAOK have thrown points away while Atromitos, who were a very close 4th right behind the big 3, had a surprise lose to Panetolikos. In saying that, they still threaten the first of the above three who stumbles and it will inevitably happen.
For AEK, the next 37 days are going to be busy and I mean crazy busy with no less than 10 games in that short space.
For the Dikefalo of Athens, it means on average a game every 3-4 days, no short order and the biggest test of the season with tough opposition throughout the time and no let up time.
Firstly looking at the teams, from now till early February, AEK will play Olympiakos 3 times thanks to the Greek Cup draw pairing the two teams together. This will be a big challenge as Olympiakos have hit some form, and have not lost to Greek opposition since their 1-0 loss to Panathinaikos in late October. However, they are now adjusting to a new coach in Spaniard Oscar Garcia who replaced Takis Lemonis in the New Year.
The question remains whether or not this was the right move for the reds who face a similar situation to AEK, both teams will play on the weekend, AEK with Larissa away and Olympiakos at home to Xanthi. AEK play on Saturday but will travel to Larisa whilst OSFP play at home a day later, before the first leg is played on Wednesday the 24th of January.
AEK then play Lamia on the Saturday (27/01) at home whilst Olympiakos travels to Tripoli to face the inform Asteras on Sunday (28/01)
Both teams then get a much needed breather with no mid week games before the big clash of the titans in February takes place at the Karaiskaki stadium on Sunday night 4th of February, a match which could play a critical role in this year’s Greek SuperLeague champion.
This just highlights the incredible amount of football for both groups, the schedule evens out one must say, squad depth is were the test will be. AEK are already under injury clouds to key players but have done well to keep the pace going. Olympiacos, when compared to past years, do not have the depth they once had so it is going to be an incredible test of attrition, tactics, and character for both clubs.
If that is not enough, AEK & Olympiakos meet again on Wednesday 7th February at the Olympic stadium where AEK fans will be hoping for another Cup win over the Gavroi.
After the Olympiakos series, a game with Asteras Tripolis for the Super League will see the yellow and blacks look for revenge after Asteras were comprehensive winners in the first round match and handed AEK their first loss of the season at the time.
This will then bring forward another huge test, the UEFA Europa League clashes with Ukrainian outfit Dynamo Kiev as both teams fight it out for a ticket to the last 16. AEK will play the first game in Athens, given the heavy schedule before this, it’s not such a bad thing. The first game is on Thursday 15th of February and the good news is that the following Greek Super League game is also at home against Xanthi but only 3 days later.
AEK will board a plane that week for Kiev and the return game in the Europa League with kick off scheduled for Thursday the 22nd Feb. The incredible schedule will finish off against this year’s surprise team, Atromitos, away on Monday the 26th.
It’s a very busy schedule, not included in this is the results, moral and other injuries that could come from this.
I don’t think selling Patito Rodriguez or Arnor Traustason was necessarily a great move, especially the Argentine midfielder. The reason for this is the incredible schedule throughout the season and the lack of other options, especially out wide. There are multiple games coming up which are virtually back to back. Helder Lopez and Rodrigo Galo have taken part in a high number of matches this season, likewise Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Michalis Bakakis are usually the guys that provide AEK’s attack from the wings.
Viktor Klonaridis, who somehow proved his worth over Patito, really needs to step up his performances as they have been very poor at best, so this will be important.
Everyone will be hoping Andre Simoes and Andreas Bakasetas are healthy and ready to go with new recruit, Spaniard, Erik Moran coming at a good time to help Panagiotis Kone, Kostas Galanopoulos and Astrit Ajdarevic in the middle. AEK have depth here so it could compensate with Sergio Araujo, Marko Livaja and Georgios Giakoumakis able to help which should allow another new signing, Iranian Masoud from Panionios, to continue his impressive form.
On paper it does not look too bad, however history might not be so kind. For many years now, this time of the year is where AEK have fallen to the sword and surrendered Championship contention, they have some effect on Olympiakos on this but an in-form PAOK may be the team to benefit from the hectic schedules of AEK & OSFP. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a month long of great football action.