Dikefaloi Ready to Fight for this Year's Cup
GREEK football cup - final
|PAOK||1:30 PM (EST)||AEK|
Georgios Tsitsonis from AGONAsport.com brings you a full preview for the Greek Cup Final between PAOK and AEK.
The on-again off-again 2017 Greek Cup Final is set to take place on Saturday pitting PAOK against AEK at the Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos. As is typical in recent times with regard to Greek football, the news heading into this match concerns mostly off-the-pitch chaos. Up until Friday, it was still up in the air whether the final would be played or postponed. The problems dogging the readiness of the Panthessaliko Stadium were finally said to have been resolved and the decision to play the match was made about 36 hours before kick-off.
This has been a major distraction from focusing on what could be a quite intriguing match on the field. Both PAOK and AEK head into the final wanting to win for different reasons. For PAOK, this is a massive opportunity for owner Ivan Savvidis to add the first trophy under his reign to the club’s cabinet. PAOK is attempting to become the main rival to Olympiacos’ domestic dominance and Cup success could provide the platform to do so in the years to come. Having finished 2nd in the SuperLeague this season, the Thessaloniki giants can head into the league playoffs with great momentum should they triumph on Saturday. For all involved with the club, there is a belief that winning the Cup could be the springboard necessary to win the league next season.
AEK meanwhile did extremely well to win the 2016 competition and are now eyeing back-to-back wins in the Greek Cup. In a season that looked destined for failure, Manolo Jimenez’s return as manager has reinvigorated the entire club. A playoff place that looked doubtful when the Spaniard took over was eventually clinched and a win in the final would be the icing on the cake of a quite masterful turnaround. Jimenez helped save an entire campaign and claiming another trophy would also help the club find the belief to go on to bigger and better things.
PAOK: PAOK head to Volos with no injury concerns with the exception of long-term absentee Giannias Mystakidis. Mystakidis will travel with the team so as to provide support to his teammates.
In the absence of injury problems, Vladan Ivic’s main focus has been on the starting line-up. In goal will be the club’s number one Panagiotis Glykos. The central defenders will be the established duo of Fernando Varela and Jose Angel Crespo along with fullbacks Leo Matos and Marin Leovac. The two defensive midfield positions will be comprised of Gojko Cimirot and Yevhen Shakhov. Amr Warda and Djalma Campos will hold their place along with striker Aleksandar Prijovic. The only real question is whether Ivic will go with Diego Biseswar or Jose Canas which will end up determining whether the team is set out in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1.
AEK: AEK also enter the final with a full squad from which to select. Jimenez did spring a surprise with announcement of his squad which did not include Astrit Adjarevic. The Swedish midfielder has been a staple in the line-up since his arrival in the winter transfer window so his absence from the squad was a shock to many.
Jimenez, like Ivic, will likely avoid surprises with a starting eleven that he has used recently. The expectation is that Giannis Anestis will get the nod in goal with the backline looking reading from left to right as Didac Vila, Ognjen Vranjes, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, and Rodrigo Galo. The central midfield positions are set in stone with the duo of Andre Simoes and Jakob Johansson. Petros Mantalos will operate in front of them with Patito Rodriguez and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos on the flanks and Sergio Araujo leading the line up front.
PAOK: Glykos, Matos, Varela, Crespo, Leovac, Cimirot, Shakhov, Biseswar, Warda, Campos, Prijovic
AEK: Anestis, Vila, Vranjes, Chygrynskiy, Galo, Simoes, Johansson, Mantalos, Roriguez, Christodoulopoulos, Araujo
road to the final
1st Round: 1st Group A
Round of 16: Defeated Panetolikos 6-1 on aggregate
Quarter-finals: Defeated Xanthi on away goals (2-2 on aggregate)
Semi-finals: Defeated Panathinaikos 4-2 on aggregate
1st Round: 1st Group F
Round of 16: Defeated Levadiakos 7-0 on aggregate
Quarter-finals: Defeated Platanias 3-0 on aggregate
Semi-finals: Defeated Olympiacos on away goals (2-2 aggregate score)
- 4/30/2017 PAOK-Kerkyra 5-1 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 4/27/2017 PAOK-Panathinaikos 4-0 (Greek Cup Semi-final)
- 4/23/2017 Platanias-PAOK 1-3 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 4/12/2017 Panathinaikos-PAOK 2-0 (Greek Cup Semi-final)
- 4/9/2017 PAOK-Panathinaikos 3-0 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 4/30/2017 PAS Giannina-AEK 1-1 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 4/26/2017 AEK-Olympiacos 0-1 (Greek Cup Semi-final)
- 4/23/2017 Levadiakos-AEK 0-2 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 4/13/2017 Olymnpiacos-AEK 1-2 (Greek Cup Semi-final)
- 4/9/2017 AEK-Kerkyra 5-0 (Greek SuperLeague)
PAOK and AEK have met before in the Greek Cup Final on three occasions. AEK have won all three of the encounters. The last time the two sides contested a final was in 1983, when AEK managed a 2-0 win.
AEK won by the same scoreline five years before that as they claimed the 1978 Greek Cup. To find the teams’ first meeting in the final, one must go back to 1939 when AEK were victorious 2-1.
Giorgos Kominis will be the man in the middle for this year’s final. The 37-year-old official from Thesprotia began refereeing in the SuperLeague five years ago. This season he has officiated 12 SuperLeague matches, one Greek Cup, as well as two Europa League qualifiers.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This has all the makings of a closely-fought and potentially dramatic final. The two teams split their meetings in the SuperLeague this season with PAOK winning at home 1-0 and AEK coming away with a 3-0 victory in Athens.
Both teams come into the game in good form. And both have been bolstered in the second half of the season with addition of a quality front man. Aleksandar Prijovic and Sergio Araujo have been two of the league’s top strikers since they joined PAOK and AEK respectively in January.
Ultimately, there is solidity and creativity from both teams in defense and midfield. While it should be a close match, it would be a surprise if this was a dull final devoid of chances. The difference makers could be in the middle of the pitch. The duos of Cimirot-Shakhov and Simoes-Johansson will provide an enticing battle. Whichever pair grab the edge could swing the final in favor of that team.
Watch it live from AGONAsport here! For those in Greece, the game will be on OTE Sport 1 and in the USA/CAN on Ant1 Sat. In Australia it will be on ANT1 Pacific.