Rivals Battle In Thessaloniki Derby
(Matchday 7 Preview)
A Thessaloniki Derby is the headlining fixture of Matchday 7 in the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague. PAOK and Iraklis clash at the Toumba Stadium on Sunday night in The AGONAsport Match of the Week.
As always it should be an intriguing affair between these two rivals. PAOK’s title challenge has suffered setbacks in recent weeks with dropped points against the likes of Veria and Xanthi. Iraklis, favorites for the drop before the season began, have only two points, but they have performed well against tough opposition.
SuperLeague leaders Panathinaikos will expect nothing less than the three points against struggling Xanthi. On Saturday, Panionios and Olympiacos meet up in Nea Smyrni in one of the weekend’s more attractive fixtures.
The weekend kicks off with Saturday’s early kick-off between Panetolikos and Kerkyra. Asteras Tripolis are hoping for their first points of the season against impressive Platanias. PAS Giannina have started the season well and will want to continue that when they welcome Levadiakos. In a match between two improving sides, Atromitos and Veria face off in Athens.
Finally, the lone Monday match sees AEK try to bounce back from last round’s derby defeat to Olympiacos with an always difficult trip to Larisa.
*For the full SuperLeague schedule click here or visit the Greek SuperLeague home page for more. For TV Listings of this weekend's games (and more) in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Greece visit our TV Listings's page.
GAME OF THE WEEK: PAOK - IRAKLIS
The AGONAsport Match of the Week takes place in Toumba on Sunday with a Thessaloniki derby pitting PAOK versus Iraklis. These are clubs with two different sets of goals this season. PAOK believe they can challenge for the title. Iraklis meanwhile after all their economic issues would find success in just remaining in the top-flight. And yet it is PAOK who are seemingly struggling and Iraklis who are winning plaudits for their battling displays.
Vladan Ivic’s PAOK are coming off of two extremely disappointing 0-0 draws against Xanthi and Veria. Those are the sort of fixtures PAOK supporters would expect victories out of, but their team were stymied against lesser opposition. O Dikefalos tou Vorra are already 5 points behind leaders Panathinaikos due to a three point deduction.
There is no room for error and this weekend will be a massive test of this team’s resolve. PAOK will embark on weeklong journey that will see the team travel a total of 6,578 kilometers and play three matches. They begin this weekend in Thessaloniki against Iraklis then travel to Baku, Azerbaijan for a Europa League tie before heading to Athens and onto Piraeus for a derby against Olympiacos and finally the trip back home to Thessaloniki. Ivic will be without in-form left-back Giorgos Tzavellas who was injured for Greece on international duty.
Nikos Papadopoulos may only have his side on two points and second from bottom in the standings, but a closer look reveals a team that is doing quite well. Iraklis have opened up the season with a very difficult pile of fixtures which has seen them already play Panionios, AEK (away), Olympiacos, and Larisa (away). Two draws may seem like a mediocre return from 4 matches, but the performances on the whole have been quite good. If anything, the club and its supporters have been buoyed by what they have seen on the pitch. With a more forgiving set of fixtures coming up, the belief is high that the wins will follow suit.
Papadopoulos will be worried about a trio of absences this weekend. Iraklis will be without injury victims Emanuel Perrone and defender Dimitris Stamou. Giannis Loukinas is also unavailable as he serves his ban after a red card in Matchday 6.
PANETOLIKOS - KERKYRA
A tight match is expected in Agrinio as Panetolikos and Kerkyra meet up. This match-up is the Saturday early kick-off that opens up Matchday 7. Both sides have good defensive records and this looks to be a close affair that could be decided by a single goal. For home side Panetolikos they will be without the services of midfielder Giorgos Mygas who misses out. Mathieu Gomes looks set to miss this match for Kerkyra as he is slated as doubtful. This match has stalemate written all over it. While both teams have strong backlines, their attacking prowess has struggled thus far with the teams combining for a paltry 6 goals in their total of 8 matches played.
ASTERAS TRIPOLIS - PLATANIAS
|Asteras Tripolis||11:15 AM||Platanias|
New manager Dimitris Elefteropoulos has used the international break to have a sort of mini-preseason with his side. Asteras Tripolis will hope that has had a positive effect as they host Platanias on Saturday. Asteras remain the only team in the league without a point after four matches. Elefteropoulos will be aiming to change that against fourth-placed Platanias.
The Cretan side have impressed with their solid start to the campaign and with a mere two goals allowed thus far have shown they will be giving little away. A victory in Tripoli would continue their best-ever start in the SuperLeague.
Elefteropoulos will have to make do without 23-year-old defensive midfielder Dimitris Kourbelis, who is doubtful. Another player likely to be absent is Walter Iglesias. The good news for the Arcadians is the return of duo Elini Dimoutsos and Cristian Chavez, both of whom are back in the fold. The one major concern for Giorgos Paraschos’ Platanias is a hand injury to Christos Karipidis. The former PAOK and Hearts defender left practice earlier this week, but should be available come Saturday.
PANIONIOS - OLYMPIACOS
One of the matches of the weekend takes place on Saturday evening at Nea Smyrni with Panionios hosting Olympiacos. Defending champions Olympiacos have blown hot and cold in the new season, losing to Larisa in Matchday 5 only to come back and produce a good performance to defeat AEK 3-1 last time out. Paulo Bento’s team will be hoping they have turned the corner and can find the consistency that has evaded them so far.
Panionios meanwhile have won three of their first four matches and have played some of the best football in the Greek SuperLeague this season. Boss Vladan Milojevic has his side well placed to challenge high up the table again with European football the clear goal even at this early stage.
Lots of team news surrounds Olympiacos. Bento will be ruing the international break which saw him lose Kostas Fortounis for this match. Fortounis has made a slow start to the new season; however his recent performances for club and country saw him regaining the sparkling form of last year. Marko Marin looks set to take Fortounis’ place while Alaixys Romao could be given a start in midfield to rest Luka Milivojevic.
For Panionios, the only real headache for Milojevic is the absence of Ben Nabouhane, who is suspended for this game after a red card against Iraklis in Matchday 6.
Panathinaikos - Xanthi
League leaders Panathinaikos will be seeking to maintain their hold on the top spot when they welcome Xanthi to the Leoforos Stadium in Sunday’s early kick-off. Andrea Strammacioni’s team look a much stronger proposition this season and have begun the season in fine fashion. While Xanthi should not be overlooked, this is a victory that the Prasini will surely be counting on as they face some tricky encounters in the next few weeks.
Colombian attacker Victor Ibarbo left training this week due to pain in his Achilles tendon. His status is day-to-day with the likelihood being he will be available for selection this weekend. Ousmane Coulibaly is back after a lay-off.
Xanthi’s early season form has been below par leading to a mere two points amassed after four matches. The smart money was for manager Razvan Lucescu to accept a big money move to Al Hilal over the international break. However, the Romanian coach indicated he would stay loyal to the club and his president Christos Panopoulos and see out the season with the side from Northern Greece. In a recent interview, Lucescu also indicated that the team’s main goal this season was to avoid relegation.
PAS Giannina - Levadiakos
|PAS Giannina||11:15 AM||Levadiakos|
A close contest can be expected at Zosimades on Sunday when PAS Giannina host Levadiakos. PAS are looking good so far this season and are on 7 points. Their only defeat was admittedly a heavy one against Panathinaikos (4-0); however that is a match where they played the majority of it with 10 men. Giannis Petrakis’ group has not conceded in their other three matches and the talk surrounding the club is already about European qualification yet again.
Levadiakos have made a very even opening to their season. Already the Livadeia side seem to be a midtable team, 8 goals allowed suggest they will need to tighten up the defense in order to ensure they don’t fall into a relegation battle. In Matchday 6, Levadiakos managed to take the lead against Larisa, but ended up giving up an equalizer that kept them from nabbing the three points.
PAS will have to make do without the influential duo of Noe Acosta and Higor Vidal as both are ruled out through injury. Levadiakos meanwhile cannot count on the attacking talents of Chumbinho for this match in Giannina. While Nwankwo Obiora is still not fully fit, the good news for Ratko Dostanic is that the former Inter Milan and Parma defender is close to making his debut for the club.
Atromitos - Veria
Giorgos Korakakis will try to steer Atromitos to their second straight victory when they host Veria on Sunday. Korakakis took over from Traianos Dellas as an interim manager after Dellas was sacked two matches into the season. Korakakis took his chance by leading his side to their first win of the season against Asteras Tripolis. Korakakis made a series of changes to the line-up and squad, surprising observers with his team selection and trust in youth. The decisions paid off for the 40-year-old and he has been kept on as manager.
Thomas Grafas is another manager who was promoted after he replaced Alekos Vosniadis. The change has helped a Veria side, who after struggling in their first two matches in defeats to Olympiacos and AEK, have now managed a win and a draw in their last two against Panionios and PAOK respectively.
Veria’s Pablo Vitti was recently involved in a car accident, but did not suffer any injuries and is fine to play this weekend.
Larisa - AEK
Larisa want to do the trick twice by taking care of another Greek giant when AEK come to the AEL FC Arena on Monday. Aggelos Anastasiadis saw his players claim the scalp of Olympiacos in Matchday 5 at home. If anything, Larisa come into this match in better mental condition than their counterparts. Remaining in the SuperLeague is undoubtedly the goal for Larisa this season. After the Olympiacos match, the question is now whether this team can push forth and challenge higher up the table.
AEK are still reeling from the derby defeat to Olympiacos just before the international break. While time has passed since the 3-1 loss, the feeling is that the Kitrinomavri are still not over the defeat. Manager Temur Ketsbaia was given a vote of confidence after a meeting with club officials. That still has not stopped the stream of media rumors claiming that the Georgian coach’s job is not secure. A win away to Larisa could calm the situation, but anything else could spell trouble for Ketsbaia and see AEK fall further off the trail of their title challengers.
For Larisa, Ximo Navarro should return after an injury suffered against Iraklis in first match of season. The news in the AEK camp is not as good with defender Joleon Lescott definitely out for this match and surely more due to arthroscopic surgery required for a knee injury.
Image Source: inpaok.com
by: Giorgos Tsitsonis. Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org