PAOK-AEK Derby At Toumba
(Matchday 9 Preview)
The derby between PAOK and AEK is the main event of Matchday 9 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague and is the AGONAsport Match of the Week. The two Dikefali of Greek soccer clash in a very important match with regard to the league title. PAOK’s late defeat to Olympiacos in last week’s derby between the two sides leaves the Thessaloniki club 7 points off the pace already. AEK under new manager Jose Morais will want to get the three points in a very difficult stadium so as to remain within striking distance of Olympiacos, who they trail by 4 points.
Olympiacos will have their hands full with a trip to Atromitos, a side who have been rejuvenated by the appointment of manager Giorgos Korakakis. Panathinaikos, still reeling from two poor results in the last two weekends, want to bounce back with a home victory over bottom-side Iraklis.
Larisa and Panionios kick things off on Saturday with the early kick-off while following that game Xanthi and Kerkyra look to continue winning ways when they face off.
Elsewhere, Asteras Tripolis play host to Levadiakos and Veria welcome Platanias in two Sunday fixtures. The Monday match this week pits Panetolikos against PAS Giannina in Agrinio.
*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 - AEK
The AGONAsport Match of the Week is none other than the derby in Sunday’s late match between PAOK and AEK. Both teams enter the match with mixed emotions. PAOK are already 7 points off the pace in the SuperLeague with the dual effect of dropped points and a three-point deduction. Vladan Ivic’s team have been inconsistent as far as results. With respect to performances, the good news is that PAOK have played well for the majority of the season, creating numerous chances in matches, but having trouble putting them away.
Last week in the derby versus Olympiacos, PAOK gave as well as they got with many observers believing the team were the better side over 90 minutes. However, that didn’t keep Olympiacos from grabbing an extremely late winner to take all the points. Against AEK, PAOK need to find the killer instinct in front of goal that will allow them to not fall away in the title race. In injury news, Giorgos Tzavellas is set to return against AEK while Marin Leovac and Yevhen Shakhov will also make their return to the squad.
AEK changed their manager, but even the appointment of Jose Morais could not inspire the team to a win last week against Panionios. The boos rang out once again during the match as fans showed their displeasure at another subdued display by their team. Matters improved in the midweek win over Kerkyra in the Greek Cup (4-0), however unlike PAOK this is a team that have yet to really impress with their play this season.
Is Morais the man to change AEK’s fortunes around? And do the club have the players to challenge for the title? These are questions that will be answered soon and this weekend will help with the evidence for those answers. AEK will be bolstered by the news that Ronald Vargas will be in the squad after a month’s absence. Adding to that positive development will be the presence of Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Patito Rodriguez in the squad. Both of those players have served out recent suspensions and they could feature in Morais’ starting eleven.
LARISSA - PANIONIOS
Two teams suffering in different manner collide when Larisa and Panionios meet at the AEL FC Arena in Saturday’s early kick-off. Larisa are in need of some shock therapy after a dismal run of form. Angelos Anastasiadis’ side have lost their last three matches in all competitions including last week’s heavy SuperLeague defeat to PAS Giannina 4-0 and a midweek Greek Cup loss away to PAOK 2-0. Currently 13th in the standings, Larisa need to begin picking up points, especially at home where they are traditionally strong, in order to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.
Panionios failed to win their last three matches in the league and cup; however Vladan Milojevic’s side can point to the fact that they played the likes of big sides such as Olympiacos and AEK in the league during that stretch. The Nea Smyrni side are still 4th in the table and overall have made a positive start to the season.
XANTHI - KERKYRA
Xanthi have found renewed life in the last two Matchdays with victories over Panathinaikos and Platanias respectively. Those wins have taken the pressure off and this weekend the club will be aiming for their third win on the bounce when Kerkyra make the trip to Xanthi. Xanthi did suffer a midweek Greek Cup defeat to PAS Giannina 1-0. Razvan Lucescu indicated his belief that a draw would have been a better result. Regardless, it’s clear that this is a side looking like it has improved in the last month.
Kerkyra ended a winless run that had lasted 5 matches with last weekend’s 2-0 win over Asteras Tripolis. It was a classic relegation six-pointer that was vital for Michalis Grigoriou and his players. Now, the Faiakes will be seeking their first away points of the season.
ATROMITOS - OLYMPIACOS
The late Saturday kick-off presents an interesting match-up between Atromitos and Olympiacos. Atromitos have been flying high as of late with 4 wins and a draw in their last 5 matches. The appointment of Giorgos Korakakis to the manager’s job has seen the side go from strength to strength, though he and his team face their biggest test of the season when the defending champions show up this weekend.
League leaders Olympiacos are looking strong themselves at the moment. After a terrible start to the campaign which included an early exit in the Champions’ League qualifiers and three different managers, the Piraeus club have finally settled. Derby wins over AEK and PAOK have suggested Paulo Bento’s bunch are once again the team to beat as they have opened up a four-point lead over Panathinaikos and AEK at the top. Olympiacos have found consistency and the question is whether they can keep the momentum going with this tough fixture along with the massive clash against Panathinaikos next weekend.
Alberto De la Bella is questionable for the Erythrolefki this weekend, so the fit again Omar Elabdellaoui could be in line for his first league start of the season.
PANATHINAIKOS - IRAKLIS
Panathinaikos and Iraklis play each other for the second time in three days when the two sides square off in SuperLeague action on Sunday. On Thursday in Greek Cup 1st Round action, the teams played out a 0-0 draw.
Panathinaikos have hit a real slump in the league with two very disappointing results against Xanthi (loss) and Veria (draw) in their last two outings. The Prasini went from top of the table to second, now four points behind Olympiacos with the derby against their bitter rivals looming. Andrea Strammacioni has a whole host of injury concerns this weekend. Niklas Hult is extremely doubtful for Sunday’s match and he joins a laundry list of injury victims which includes Cristian Ledesma, Rodrigo Moledo, Mubarak Wakaso, Zeca, and Christopher Samba.
Iraklis meanwhile are in desperate need of points. Giannis Amanatidis’ debut in the Iraklis dugout saw his new team lose 2-1 to Atromitos. Though Iraklis managed to bring the match onto level terms, their opponents scored a late winner. That condemned Iraklis to defeat and they are bottom of the table with only 2 points from 6 matches. They may have had a tough schedule to begin the season, however the Thessaloniki side need to pick up points fast.
ASTERAS TRIPOLIS - LEVADIAKOS
|Asteras Tripolis||11:15 AM||Levadiakos|
Just as Asteras Tripolis seemed to be back on the up with a win in Week 7 against Platanias, Dimitris Elefteropoulos’ men came crashing down with a disappointing defeat to Kerkyra last week. Now the onus is on the Tripoli side to take care of business at home this weekend against Levadiakos. The good news for Asteras is that they were able to defeat Veria in the Greek Cup and enter this match with some momentum.
Levadiakos are 11th at the moment and about where most observers expected them to finish the season. The prevailing notion is that this is a side too good for a place in the relegation battle, but not possessing the quality to challenge further up the table for a European spot. Ratko Dostanic has a couple of injury concerns ahead of the Asteras clash. Zisis Karahalios has been ruled out while Vangelis Mantzios will be game-day decision as he battles sickness.
VERIA - PLATANIAS
Two of the league’s prominent Jekyll and Hyde teams meet this weekend when Veria host Platanias. Thomas Grafas’ Veria have done well this season in defeating Panionios and managing draws against big clubs such as PAOK and Panathinaikos. They have easily lost their other three matches however and have scored a paltry 3 goals this season. They will be seeking out their second win of the season against Platanias, though they will be without the trio of Toni Calvo, Tomas Gonzalez, and Jeffrey Sarpong.
Their opponents, Platanias, began the season firing out of the gates, but in the last few weeks the red-hot start has cooled considerably. Platanias have gone three in a row without a win including last weekend’s home defeat to Xanthi.
PANETOLIKOS - PAS GIANNINA
|Panetolikos||12:30 PM||PAS Giannina|
Monday’s match takes place in Agrinio as home side Panetolikos entertain PAS Giannina. Panetolikos could not find a breakthrough against Platanias away last week and they now find themselves tied for 7th in the SuperLeague standings. To be fair, it hasn’t been a bad start at all for Giannis Mantzourakis’ bunch. 4 goals allowed this season shows the good level of organization this team possesses, though that is also balanced by a decent attack that has found the net on 8 occasions.
Panetolikos face a stiff test on Matchday 9 from one of the season’s biggest surprises. There was suggestion last season that PAS Giannina would be a strong side this season; the early signs are even more promising. Giannis Petrakis has led his charges to the heights of 4th place so far, tied with Panionios on 10 points, but with a game in hand. Giannina showed in last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Larisa that they are not to be underestimated by any side this season. Petrakis will be without the services of Noe Acosta and Higor Vidal as both remain out through injury, but the attacking quality within the squad remains high despite those absences.