PAO-OLY Preview: Resilient Enemies Do Battle At Leoforos
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 9
|Panathinaikos||12:30 PM (EST)||Olympiacos|
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis previews the matchday 9 Greek SuperLeague derby between the eternal enemies Panathinaikos and Olympiacos at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium.
Panathinaikos welcome bitter rivals Olympiacos to the Leoforos Alexandras Stadium this weekend in Greek football’s most historic derby. The ‘eternal enemies’ meet as part of the headlining act for Matchday 9 of this season’s Greek Super League.
Panathinaikos are a club teetering on the brink of financial ruin. There have been noises coming out of the club and supporters that the economic mess Panathinaikos are in could lead them to a nightmare scenario in the very near future. Despite the poor state of the affairs off the pitch, Marinos Ouzounidis is doing his best to keep his side focused on what happens on it. While the Prasini haven’t exactly lit it up this season, they have shown a fair bit of resilience considering the problems plaguing the club.
Panathinaikos are making it a habit of fighting until the end. The Trifylli’s last three matches have seen them score late goals to win a game or salvage a draw. A midweek Greek Cup victory away to Anagennisi Karditsa saw a late winner, last week’s draw with Lamia featured a late equalizer and nearly two weeks ago the team fought with 9 players to eventually score at the death to defeat Larisa.
Their opponents this weekend have shown resilience themselves in recent weeks. Left for dead after a few disappointing results including losses to AEK and Atromitos and a draw with Asteras Tripolis, Olympiacos have persisted on and have shown signs of a recover. A win over Panionios away brought them to last week’s derby against PAOK.
Takis Lemonis’ team looked an improved defensive unit against PAOK and rode that steadiness at the back to a 1-0 victory. Suddenly, the defending champions are within two points of the table following a poor start. Victory in a second consecutive derby could show the league that champions are back for good.
Andres Chavez will miss out due to a hamstring injury that has kept him out since last month. The Argentine attacker was aiming to at least make the squad, however his inability to train on Thursday meant he was ruled out.
Defender Rodrigo Moledo will be available for selection by Ouzounidis. The Brazilian picked up a three-match ban against Larisa in a Greek Cup match. He served two matches of the suspension and upon an appeal lodged Moledo has had the third match of the suspension dropped thus allowing him to play this weekend against Olympiacos.
Lemonis had the same news as last week’s derby concerning Seba and Ben Nabouhane. The former will miss at least another week due to a knee injury picked up a couple matches ago. Nabouhane is also set to miss out due to a failure to fully recover from a longer-term injury.
The good news for Lemonis is the return of Emmanuel Emenike. The Nigerian striker came back to the side in midweek to score in the Greek Cup against Acharnaikos. He is set to feature in this derby, potentially even in the starting eleven.
Panathinaikos: Vlachodimos, Moledo, Kolovetsios, Coulibaly, Hult, Kourbelis, Sylla, Villafanez, Hiljemark, Lod, Molins
Olympiacos: Proto, Koutris, Cisse, Engels, Elabdellaoui, Odjidja, Romao, Fortounis, Carcela, Pardo, Emenike
10/24/17 Anagennisi Karditsa-Panathinaikos 1-2 (Greek Cup)
10/21/17 Lamia-Panathinaikos 1-1 (Greek Super League)
10/16/17 Panathinaikos-Larisa 2-1 (Greek Super League)
9/30/17 Panathinaikos-PAS Giannina 2-0 (Greek Super League)
9/23/17 Panetolikos-Panathinaikos 2-0
10/25/17 Acharnaikos-Olympiacos 0-3 (Greek Cup)
10/22/17 Olympiacos-PAOK 1-0 (Greek Super League)
10/18/17 Barcelona-Olympiacos 3-1 (UEFA Champions’ League)
10/14/17 Panionios-Olympiacos 3-4 (Greek Super League)
10/1/17 Olympiacos-Atromitos 0-1 (Greek Super League)
The man in the middle for this match will be 32-year-old Anastasios Papapetrou. This will be the first time Papapetrou takes charge of this derby. Papapetrou made his Super League debut in the 2011/12 season. He has since taken charge of nearly 50 top-flight matches. In addition to his experience in Greece, Papapetrou has some experienced in Europe having overseen a couple of Europa League qualifiers in recent seasons.
Ouzounidis appears to be doing a good job at Panathinaikos all things considered and Lemonis has navigated his team through some choppy waters. Both coaches have done well and now one could take another big step in the right direction with this weekend’s match.
Panathinaikos are certainly not far off the top of the leaderboard, but realistically they would do well to finish Top 5 this season, especially with their points deduction from last season and their gigantic financial issues. More so than league standing, it’s very much about pride for Ouzounidis and his players at the moment. That could mean a passionate display is on the verge from Panathinaikos.
On the other side, Olympiacos will settle for nothing else than the league title. Even though they were off to their worst start in 30 years, the Erythrolefki have bounced back in the last two weeks with big wins over Panionios and PAOK. A third win on the trot against another Greek heavyweight would really be a statement to the rest of the league.
All in all, this should be another fiercely fought contest. The spirit these sides have shown in recent weeks could mean a very tight affair on the pitch. Olympiacos may have the edge in quality, and definitely in depth. Panathinaikos though have perhaps a bit better form coming into this one. It should make for compelling viewing on Saturday night in Greek football’s ‘Clasico.’