Greek SuperLeague 2017/18 Preview
By Greg Gavalas
The new season in Greece could have some interesting outcomes and questions about it. From the outset it looks like the battle will be between the big 4 (Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, AEK, PAOK) as usual however Panionios is a threat and Asteras Tripolis looks to bounce back into the mix, let's take a look at the off season so far.
OLYMPIACOS – The dominant force of Greek Football for the last 20 years now, will be looking to continue the trend after a poor end to last season saw some hope land on the other clubs looking to put an end to the Reds run of titles but the offseason, whilst not as strong as past years still sees Olympiakos (OSFP) with a better squad than most and the depth is there.
Whilst I think Olympiakos will go to win another Greek title, it's European football that the fans want to see more of. The Greek champions have released some influential players in Esteban Cambiasso, Alexandro Dominguez and sold Manuel Da Costa who of the many player to leave the port.
In return OSFP has picked up Serie A journeyman Panagiotis Tachtsidis who returns to Greece after 7 years in Italy. New coach Besnik Hasi has brought with him Belgian midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe from Legia Warsaw, the midfield ranks have been boosted further more with Guillaume Gillet from French club Nantes and Manolis Siopis from Panionios. Up front, Nigerian, Emmanuel Emenike crosses over to Piraeus from Fenerbahce.
With Kostas Fortounis, Thanasis Androutsos, Marko Marin and Giorgos Manthatis in the midfield and Iranian Karim Ansarifard up front amongst others I think Olympiakos has plenty of depth to call upon, domestically a long European run is what the will be needed to knock off the 44-time Greek Champions.
Coach Besnik comes with an attacking attitude which saw entertaining games in early European rounds so we should see some good football from OSFP.
PANATHINAIKOS – It's been an up and down array of emotions for Panathinaikos fans, whilst it's been mediocre news off the field for the most part, the team has shown amazing unity on the field and had it not been for penalties imposed on the team thanks to stupid fans, Pana would have won last season's playoffs.
Panathinaikos' biggest weapon right now is coach and former player Marinos Ouzounidis, Ouzo came from Panionios and has shown to be a quality coach, transforming Panathinaikos’ once lackluster game plan to a good flowing all round ball movement style of play that has seen good results.
Animosity remains over Giannis Alafouzos, the owner of Skai TV in Greece, the Greens lost their prolific striker in Swede Marcus Berg over the summer and that will hurt in the long run. Also gone is fan favorite Sebastian Leto and impact player Viktor Klonaridis.
Pana has bought in some decent players, AEK defender Dimitris Kolovetsios is very under-rated and Mattias Johansson joins from Dutch team AZ Alkmaar.
Early signs show Israeli Omri Altman will feature in midfield along with Zeca, Robin Lod and Lucas Villafanez.
PAO's big question mark is up front, Swede Guillermo Molins will want to follow in Bergs footsteps and new striker, Brazilian Luciano from Corinthians will want to get in shape ASAP.
Andres Chaves from Boca Juniors could be just what PAO needs as the season approaches and has just been bought by the Greens, this could be a game changer for the club, watch this space.
I would be excited about new goalkeeper Sokratis Dioudis who comes from Aris, PAO has struggled in the goalkeeper position for some time now and the 24-year-old is a great talent.
AEK ATHENS - Truth be told I am concerned about AEK this season, the reason for this is the complete lack of quality signings and lack of tough game preparation.
What AEK has in midfield, she is lacking in goals and upfront. For yet another season, AEK goes into round 1 without a proven striker. New signing Giorgos Giakoumakis is injured leaving two main options, 33-year-old Hugo Almeida and new signing Marko Livaja who I still can't believe is leading AEK into Europe.
AEK went through a comfortable pre-season against mediocre opposition in Poland before a friendly 1-1 draw in Athens with Genk and that was followed by two very poor showings in the Champions League qualifiers against CSKA Moscow where coach Manolo Jimenez got it all wrong.
AEK conceded 3 goals, all from corners, goalkeeper Giannis Anestis is a great shot stopper but not the best communicator, to add salt in the wound, the normally safe and sound Ukrainian Dmytro Chygrynskiy has also had a poor pre- season.
I think the opportunity to sign back Sergio Araujo needs to be taken ASAP, the opportunity to sign former Olympiakos striker Brown Ideye was there and went as quickly, for me the reality is if you're not going to invest in quality players you're not going to get the goal you're after which should be the championship. Loaned out journeyman is not the answer. I hope to be proven wrong.
PAOK – PAOK ended the season with high aspirations after winning the Greek Cup last season but the truth is their pre-season has been quiet, not very impressive and as such, PAOK remarkably sacked their coach after just 56 days in the role!
First coach Aleksandar Stanojevic was terminated after a friendly game lose to PAS Giannena in Toumba.
PAOK's situation saw the Dikefalo tou Vorra take promising Xanthi coach Razvan Lucescu and he will now take the charge of the team.
It will be a big challenge for the new Romanian coach, PAOK has not been very aggressive in the transfer market, former midfielder Robert Mak's return, on loan from Zenit St Petersburg is the highlight.
Dutch midfielder Diego Biseswar will be looking to lead the likes of Alexander Prijovic, Ergys Kace, Giannis Mystakidis and Dimitris Pelkas to success.
The other question is what will happen with Stefanos Athanasiadis who basically disappeared from the fields last season.
PANIONIOS – The Panthers from New Smirni enjoyed a great season that past and qualified for Europe where they managed a couple of wins.
The team has maintained the momentum from the Ouzounidis period and continues to play fast, skilled and good passing football which landed them great success last season and a 2-1 friendly win over Olympiakos too.
Panionios has focused recruitment on defense after losing some key personnel there including Christos Tasoulis.
Young gun Lazaros Lambrou is keen to show his potential up front so keep an eye out for him. Panionios will be looking to do better than 5th and I think they can cause some upsets.
ASTERAS TRIPOLIS - I believe Asteras will be the biggest improvers of the season. The team from Tripoli were hit back down to earth last season finishing 12th after several successful seasons previously.
Keep an eye on former Panathinaikos forward Nikos Kaltsas, he can finish and I think will be looking for a breakout season provided he can go injury free.
ATROMITOS – Like Asteras, Atromitos experienced a more inconsistent season to what they were used to last season and that inconsistency has followed through in the off season.
Atromitos have received heavy practice match loses to Tripoli and Panionios by 6 goals but have a 1-0 win over Olympiakos in the middle of that.
The team from Peristeri have lost a couple of key players in Anthony Le Tallec (sold to Astra Giurgiu of Romania) and Eduardo Brito who although 34 years young, was more than helpful last season.
Atromitos has bought well though, Giorgos Manousos from Platanias, Manousos is a proven goal scorer who should be able to go on from where Tallec left off. Theodoros Vasilakakis from Xanthi is another worthy pick up to cover Brito so despite the bazar pre-season results, keen to see how Atromitos prevail when it counts.
LARISSA – Team AEL is looking to do better than what they have managed in recent years since returning to the Super League.
Despite being home to one of the best modern stadiums in Greece the team has not produced the goods to their fans disappointment but pre-season results are promising.
There has been a big clean house at the club with no less than 17 players released or sent out on loan, in their place, veteran striker Emmanuel Perrone from Iraklis and Leozinho also from Iraklis.
APOLLON SMYRNI – The historic team will be looking to cement a spot in the Super League after a very impressive season in the Football League (2nd division) where they easily won promotion and the league.
Apollon has signed Dutch Nassir Maachi who has had good season in Cyprus and hope Ivory Coast midfielder Emmanuel Kone can help them be in the top part of the standings.
KERKYRA – The island team is another looking for an improved season, managing to survive relegation for several seasons now.
The team remains largely unchanged from last season but has signed former AEK Athens & Olympiakos left back Aristidis Soiledis with veteran full back Tassos Venetis leading the backline.
LAMIA – Lamia returns to the top division for the first time in their history and their fans cannot wait for the season to get under way.
The team beat Aris FC for promotion and will be looking to cause more upsets against the big teams as they have done over the years in Cup matches.
Lamia have signed Noe Acosta from PAS Giannena which is a great signing and keep an eye out for Ivorian striker Djily Vouho who was signed from OFI Crete.
LEVADIAKOS – For the second season in a row, Levadiakos has remained in the Super League thanks to a technicality, this time in the place if Iraklis FC who couldn't find the financed need to secure a Super League licence.
Having released their star striker Vangelis Mantzios, Levadiakos signed Brazilian striker Brandao, the striker is a well-known player in France having tasted much success with Olympique Marseille and Saint Etienne but at 37 years young it will be interesting to see how he fares in Greece.
PANETOLIKOS – Panetolikos is another club that experienced a very inconsistent season last time around, their once fortress home ground was not such a fortress last season and as such finished 11th.
There is not a great deal of change in the squad but they have picked up Nikos Marinakis from Panathinaikos.
PAS GIANNINA – After a promising start to last season PAS fell away so they will be looking to get off to a good start and maintaining that this season.
The team with one of the most dreaded fields to play on will be after a taste of European football again and their recruitment has been good.
Markos Vellidis returns in goal after a spell with PAOK. PAS have also signed exciting Greek-Brazilian forward Bruno Chalkiadakis who will also want to show some consistency and some wonder goals to show his worth.
PLATANIAS – The only team from Crete now days will want to build on a strong season that was, Platanias fought with Panionios and Xanthi for much of the season to land 5th place for a spot in Europe and only a very poor finish in the last 5 rounds robbed them of their goal.
It won't be easy though; the team has lost a few key players especially in midfield and up front. Juan Munafo as left for Asteras Tripolis, Kostas Mendrinos to Apollon and Banana Yaya to Panionios. Up front, their star from last season Giakoumakis has been snatched up by AEK.
Vasilis Pliatsikas joins the club which will help their defense but it will be a tall order to replicate last season.
XANTHI – Xanthi was the best of the rest last year, narrowly missing out on a European spot to Panionios but the Xanthiotes have copped a blow just before the season starts with PAOK taking their impressive Romania coach Lucescu.
Xanthi reacted quickly though and have brought in young Serbian coach Milan Rastovac.
Surprisingly Xanthi have released two key players (who remain free agents) Tunisian Hamza Younis who scored 19 goals last season and finished 2nd to Berg in the top scorers' charts. Algerian Karim Soltani is the other, he has been with Xanthi since 2013 and a key figure in their attack.
New signings don't match the loses so it will be interesting to see how Xanthi does as one of the better organized teams in Greece.