OLY-AEK preview: Hosts look for revenge in Piraeus
AGONAsport’s Shaun Nicolaides previews the Greek Super League derby between Olympiacos and AEK Athens.
Watch the all-important SuperLeague derby between Olympiacos & AEK LIVE from AGONAsport.com on Sunday, February 4th as the two clubs fight for this year's SuperLeague title!
In one of the season’s most highly anticipated matches, Olympiacos host AEK Athens at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus. Taking into account the hugely tense title race, this battle could prove crucial when the 2017/2018 campaign ends. Olympiacos begin the match as favourites in front of their vociferous home support, but AEK are hungry for another dramatic victory against the reigning champions.
Back in September, AEK defeated Olympiacos 3:2 at the Olympic Stadium, recovering from a two goal deficit in the final 30 minutes to claim a famous victory. That loss hit Olympiacos hard, as the Thrylos then fired former head coach Besnik Hasi shortly after the final whistle. With that in mind, Olympiacos are sure to be even more pumped up with their loud fans backing them and new boss Oscar Garcia motivated to prove his worth.
After dropping points in last week’s 1:1 draw against Asteras Tripolis, Olympiacos have fallen to second place, trailing leaders PAOK by the one point. AEK occupy third position, one point behind Olympiacos and simply cannot afford to lose this match. Olympiacos’ sole home defeat came against Atromitos early in the season, while AEK’s patchy away form has let the Kitrinomavri down. In nine road matches, AEK have only four victories. An Olympiacos win could potentially leave AEK five points off first spot, not something which they want to happen. On the other hand, the Thrylos won’t be keen on not winning a second consecutive Super League match.
Not long ago, these two teams drew 0:0 in Piraeus in the Greek Cup quarter-finals first leg.
Without any major injuries or apparent suspensions, Olympiacos have a full strength squad to choose from. However, the Greek champions predictably allowed right-back Diogo Figueiras to join Braga before the winter transfer window shut, meaning that he has to be replaced. Attacking midfielder Kostas Fortounis, who was on the bench against Asteras Tripolis, will probably start this game. Iranian forward Karim Ansarifard is on superb form, currently the Super League’s top scorer with twelve goals. He has scored in the past four championship matches.
Manager Manolo Jimenez will be able to call upon forward Sergio Araujo’s services, after the 26-year old missed last week’s 2:0 win over Lamia because of suspension.
Midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic did train on his own during the week, but he returned to the main group on Friday. Injured defender Uros Cosic doesn’t appear ready to make his comeback, and Petros Mantalos and Jakob Johansson remain on the sidelines with their serious injuries. Attacker Tasos Bakasetas impressed against Lamia at the OAKA, but he might be sent to the bench in favour of Araujo.
Olympiacos: Proto, Koutris, Cisse, Engels, Elabdellaoui, Romao, Gillet, Pardo, Fortounis, Mirallas, Ansarifard.
AEK: Tsintotas, Galo, Lambropoulos, Vranjes, Bakakis, Lopes, Simoes, Masoud, Christodoulopoulos, Livaja, Araujo.
28/01/18 Asteras Tripolis - Olympiacos - 1:1 (Super League)
24/01/18 Olympiacos - AEK - 0:0 (Greek Cup)
21/01/18 Olympiacos - Xanthi - 3:0 (Super League)
15/01/18 Olympiacos - Lamia - 2:0 (Super League)
10/01/18 Olympiacos - Platanias - 2:0 (Greek Cup)
27/01/18 AEK - Lamia - 2:0 (Super League)
24/01/18 Olympiacos - AEK - 0:0 (Greek Cup)
20/01/18 AEL - AEK - 0:0 (Greek Cup)
14/01/18 AEK - PAS Giannina - 3:1 (Super League)
09/01/18 AEK - Panetolikos - 1:0 (Greek Cup)
It will be interesting to see how the teams approach this match. Olympiacos will surely play with the initiative, but AEK’s excellent counterattacking ability with Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Marko Livaja and Sergio Araujo will keep the Thrylos defence on its toes. Belgian forward Kevin Mirallas is eager to score his first goal since rejoining Olympiacos.
AEK goalkeeper Panagiotis Tsintotas (expected to start) will have to be at his best if his team are to earn a positive result in Piraeus. Hosts Olympiacos know that a victory in this heavyweight duel will put them in a commanding position ahead of the season’s final stretch.