Season’s First Derby On The Horizon: AEK-Olympiacos Preview
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 5
|AEK||1:30 PM (EST)||Olympiacos|
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis previews AEK’s clash with Olympiacos on Matchday 5 in the Greek Superleague…
After a relatively quiet opening few weeks, the Greek Super League kicks into high gear with this weekend’s clash between rivals AEK and Olympiacos. The season’s first derby promises to be an intense affair with both side desperately wanted the three points for different season.
For AEK, the match represents a giant opportunity on a variety of fronts. There is the chance to go five points clear of Olympiacos with a victory on Sunday night at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. That wouldn’t decide the title race this early in the season, but it would be a good advantage to take into the next phase of the season.
Of greater importance for AEK though might be the psychological impact a victory would provide. Defeating Olympiacos in the derby would be a mental boost for Manolo Jimenez’s men and would lay down a marker very early in the season that this AEK side is ready to challenge for the title until the end.
Just as AEK want victory for the momentum and belief it would provide them, Olympiacos need it for similar reasons. However, for Olympiacos the three points would serve to stem the tide of negativity threatening to envelop the team. Defeat to Sporting Lisbon in their Champions’ League opener followed by another poor display in the 1-1 draw at home against Asteras Tripolis last week suddenly has changed the atmosphere surrounding the club. What once was a seemingly confident side following qualification to the Champions’ League Group Stage is now a team that is unsure of itself along with a manager feeling intense pressure.
In another league it might sounds ludicrous to suggest that a coach could be gone with a similar start to the season. However, for Besnik Hasi the match against AEK appears to be a must-win fixture. A defeat or even a draw without a solid performance could mean his reign at the club will be a short one.
After seeing Kostas Galanopoulos come back to full fitness, the main concern for AEK heading into the Olympiacos match is the fitness of Helder Lopes. The Portuguese defender picked up a knock against Lamia. Lopes is actually expected to miss the cut as far as being selected in the squad as time is running out. That would mean that Jimenez would likely select Rodrigo Galo to take his place in the starting eleven.
Thanasis Androutsos is certain to miss out not only the derby versus AEK, but also the midweek Champions’ League match against Juventus. The big question surrounding the club is the health of Kostas Fortounis. A thigh injury may rule out the Greek international, however his participation will be decided closer to the match. It’s likely that Fortounis will be in the squad, however the odds are against him being included in the starting line-up.
AEK: Anestis, Galo, Bakakis, Vranjes, Cosic, Simoes, Galanopoulos, Christodoulopoulos, Mantalos, Klonaridis, Livajia
Olympiacos: Kapino, Figueiras, Koutris, Romao, Engels, Zdjelar, Gillet, Marin, Ofoe, Seba, Emenike
9/20/17 AEK-Lamia 2-0 (Greek Cup)
9/17/17 Lamia-AEK 0-1 (Greek Super League)
9/14/17 Rijeka-AEK 1-2 (UEFA Europa League Group Stage)
9/10/17 AEK-Larisa 4-0 (Greek Super League)
8/27/17 PAS Giannina-AEK 0-0 (Greek Super League)
9/19/17 Olympiacos-Asteras Tripolis 2-1 (Greek Cup)
9/16/17 Olympiacos-Asteras Tripolis 1-1 (Greek Super League)
9/12/17 Olympiacos-Sporting Lisbon 2-3 (UEFA Champions’ League Group Stage)
9/9/17 Xanthi-Olympiacos 1-1 (Greek Super League)
8/26/17 Lamia-Olympiacos 0-1 (Greek Super League)
The momentum appears to be with AEK heading into Sunday’s clash. But, as has been shown in many cases, derbies are an altogether different animal, not always adhering to form or which side has been playing better.
Olympiacos have shown to be such a resilient side in recent years, just when they look to be on a downward spiral they come back to prove the detractors wrong. This was the case last season after a terrible run of matches in the second half of the season threatened to see them lose the title. The team regrouped and reeled off important wins down the stretch to claim another title. However, will it be similar this season? Is their early season form a sign of danger on the horizon?
AEK have bounced back extremely well in recent years to rejoin the elite teams in Greek football. Now they are trying to become the new king of the hill. Can they take the final step and win the league? This season will be a true test of how far they have come. There can be no excuses any longer, a sustained title challenge must be their goal at the very least. Back and well-established in the Super League and things on and off the pitch seemingly going well, the Kitrinomavri are primed to challenge Olympiacos for domestic supremacy.
All in all it makes for an interesting subplot to an always interesting, if not explosive derby. It’s not a title decider, but it will be a true measure of where these teams stand in this early stage of the season. For fans of both sides and for neutrals, an absorbing encounter awaits on Sunday night.