-- Big Four Looking for a Strong Finish --
(MATCHDAY 15 PREVIEW)
In the last set of fixtures before a break for the holidays, Matchday 15 of the 2016/17 of the Greek SuperLeague offers teams a chance to head into the New Year with some momentum.
Leaders Olympiacos have a seemingly straightforward home match against midtable Panetolikos in the early kick-off on Sunday. Later that day, Panathinaikos, fresh off a dramatic comeback in the Cup, face a difficult trip to Larisa. Also on Sunday, Iraklis and Asteras Tripolis square off in a match with relegation zone implications, while Panionios will be seeking the points away to Levadiakos.
On Monday, the AGONAsport Match of the Week sees AEK take on PAS Giannina.
The weekend kicks off on Saturday with an interesting match-up between Veria and Xanthi, which is followed by Platanias hosting Atromitos. The Saturday schedule is rounded out by PAOK travelling to face-off against Kerkyra in the evening game.
*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: AEK - PAS Giannina
|AEK||12:30 PM||PAS Giannina|
AEK will seek to pour more misery on PAS Giannina when the two meet at the Olympic Stadium on Monday night. PAS were considered the fairytale story of the season just a few weeks’ back, however a downturn in form has seen them slide down the standings from 2nd at one point to 6th currently. Giannis Petrakis’ team have suffered back to back defeats to Iraklis and Olympiacos and will want to avoid a third straight loss versus AEK. While o Ajax tou Epirou is well within striking range of a European spot, they will be wary to avoid a string of bad results that could leave them playing catch-up.
AEK on the other hand will be keen to build off of their 4-0 win over 10-man Levadiakos last week. The player advantage certainly helped, but the Enosi delivered a solid performance to boot. Making it two in a row with a win on Monday would give Jose Morais’ team some momentum heading into the winter break. AEK are one of only two remaining unbeaten home teams (along with Olympiacos), though they have dropped points with three home draws.
Veria - Xanthi
The table may not indicate it, but an intriguing match is on the cards when Veria take on Xanthi to start off Matchday 15. It looks like something of a mismatch with high-flying Xanthi against a Veria team second from the bottom. However, upon closer inspection it could be a match waiting to pop a surprise.
Xanthi are on fire at the moment in the midst of a nine-match unbeaten run. Razvan Lucescu has his team up to 4th in the table and on this form supporters will believe their side can continue on this path.
Veria meanwhile announced earlier this week that Giorgi Navalovski left the club. Following the Georgian defender out the door is possibly Stelios Marangos as manager Thomas Grafas indicated in an interview this week. The Veria boss suggested that more players could be on their way out with anywhere from 7-8 players leaving in January. Grafas also said that new recruits would be brought in to replace the departures. The shake-up could be a good thing for a side that has hovered in the bottom places for nearly the entire campaign.
Platanias - Atromitos
Atromitos will be seeking a continuation of their away form when they go to Chania to play Platanias. Giorgos Korakakis’ team have been very strong in their travels this season, losing only once in six attempts, while at home they have struggled losing three of five. Atromitos are coming off a 1-0 defeat to Panathinaikos last weekend which knocked them down to 7th in the standings. The Peristeri club will have to deal with the absence of Anthony Le Tallec who suffered an injury last weekend and will return after the New Year.
Platanias did well on Matchday 14 against PAOK for the first hour. Shortly after, the side fell apart by conceding three times in the final 30 minutes. The team will want to end the year right after a recent bad spell which has seen them free-fall down the table. Giorgos Paraschos will know his team’s home form must improve (one win in four matches) if Platanias are to steer clear of a relegation battle.
Kerkyra - PAOK
PAOK defeated Elefsina 7-0 in Greek Cup play on Wednesday following up their 3-0 win over Platanias in the league last weekend. Supporters will be hoping that this signals a turning point for a side that had a hellish November, at least domestically. This weekend, Vladan Ivic’s side will undergo a tricky away trip to Kerkyra in Saturday’s late kick-off with the island club having lost only twice at home this season.
Michalis Grigoriou’s side are coming off the disappointment of a Greek Cup exit. Though the Faiakes defeated Anagennisi Karditsa 6-0 away from home, they went out of the competition, even on points with Lamia, but with an inferior goal difference. Consolidation of midtable security will now be the main objective for Grigoriou and his players.
Olympiacos - Panetolikos
Olympiacos will look to end a tumultuous 2016 by defeating visiting Panetolikos in the early Sunday match. The Erythrolefki have had an up-and-down season to say the least, but in the last two months they have been consistent in the league and now enjoy a seven-point advantage at the top. Paulo Bento’s team will be the heavy favorites heading into this fixture. Olympiacos defeated PAS Giannina away 2-0 on Monday and three days later slipped past Sparta 1-0 in Greek Cup play. The league leaders have a couple of personnel questions this weekend. Brown Ideye and Tarik Elyounoussi are both questionable for this weekend’s match, while Alberto Botia is ruled out through suspension. Diogo Figueiras should return to the squad.
Panetolikos are where most expected them to be and stay this season, in midtable. Giannis Mantzourakis did see his side shrug off a couple of below par displays in previous matches to come back last week and defeat Iraklis 2-0. The Agrinio club followed that performance with a shellacking of Kallithea 5-1 in Greek Cup action to seal a spot in the Round of 16. They enter this match in an improved state and will aim for an upset in Piraeus.
Levadiakos - Panionios
Iraklis and Asteras Tripolis lock horns in a game with massive relegation ties. Iraklis is rock-bottom of the league and have won only one match this season. That said, Asteras are five points above the drop zone, however they are by no means assured of avoiding relegation.
Iraklis fell 2-1 to OFI on Thursday as they crashed out of the Greek Cup. Savvas Pantelidis suggested it was a tough elimination, but also seemed to say that avoiding relegation was now the club’s only main objective.
Asteras warmed up for the trip to Thessaloniki with a 4-1 away win against Aiginiakos. They will be happy to have booked a ticket to the knockout round of the Greek Cup, but results in the league is what matters most at this stage. After a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Veria, Dimitris Elefteropoulos came out this week to say performances had to improve in order to bring the supporters back. A victory over Iraklis will not do that necessarily, but it would be the start necessary. Asteras will have to overcome their away blues as the club have managed only one away win in six matches this season.
IRAKLIS - ASTERAS TRIPOLIS
|Iraklis||10:15 AM||Asteras Tripolis|
A couple of 4-0 defeats in a row sees a jittery Levadiakos await the arrival of Panionios on Sunday. Levadiakos boss Ratko Dostanic won’t be feeling completely at ease as the weekend approaches with a very capable Panionios side coming to town. The two heavy losses in a row did come against the likes of Olympiacos and AEK, but the scorelines are heavy and Levadiakos need a response against Panionios.
Dostanic will need to do something to wake his players up as his team have won only one of their last six matches.
Panionios meanwhile were also in a bit of a dip in form before last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Kerkyra. They followed that up with a 3-0 over Panserraikos in Greek Cup play, but that wasn’t enough to stay in the competition. Vladan Milojevic used mostly a reserve side in Serres, but that shows that Panionios do have strength in depth.
LARISSA - PANATHINAIKOS
Panathinaikos make the tough away trip to Larisa in Sunday’s late game. Marinos Ouzounidis has injected some life into the club since his arrival as evidenced by the 4-3 comeback win over Apollon Smyrni on Thursday in the Cup. That result allowed the Prasini to squeeze through with qualification to the Round of 16 by the thinnest of margins. The fact remains that Panathinaikos did fall behind 2-0 in an awful first half display showing that Ouzounidis has his hands full in trying to improve this team. The team was able to mount the comeback, however after the game the new boss stated changes would be made to the squad very soon with some high-profile names on their way out in January.
Larisa were knocked out of the Cup during midweek in the latest blow to a season of struggle. The Vissini are only one point above Veria who occupy the last relegation place. The AEL FC Arena needs to become the fortress it has been in the past if Sakis Tsiolis’ men are to rise up the ranks. Andreas Avraam picked up a knock that will leave him out until late January and Nico Varela is still missing for Larisa.