Tough Away Tests for Olympiacos & Panathinaikos
(MATCHDAY 14 PREVIEW)
Two big clashes at the top of the table stand out in Matchday 14 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague. Leaders Olympiacos face a stiff test away to PAS Giannina in this week’s AGONAsport Match of the Week. Panathinaikos, hoping for a rebirth under new manager Marinos Ouzounidis are also away to in-form Atromitos on Sunday.
AEK need a positive result against Levadiakos to get their campaign back on track in Saturday’s late kick-off. Earlier that day Asteras Tripolis hosts Veria while Xanthi await the arrival of Larisa.
Besides Atromitos-Panathinaikos, Sunday’s schedule also offers struggling PAOK a chance to get back to winning when they host Platanias, Panionios taking on Kerkyra and Panetolikos and Iraklis facing off 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: PAS Giannina - Olympiacos
|PAS Giannina||12:30 PM||Olympiacos|
The AGONAsport Match of the Week features PAS Giannina playing host to Olympiacos. O Ajax tou Epirou have been one of the welcome storylines of the season with their current 3rd placed standing. Giannis Petrakis has put together an exciting side who were flying high until last week’s disappointing defeat to previously winless Iraklis. It remains to be seen how much that loss will effect the team going forward, however overall PAS have impressed this season producing good football and proving more than a match for even the big sides in the division.
At home, PAS have been especially good having lost only one of six matches while scoring 10 goals and conceding only twice.
Olympiacos will be wary of that sort of form as they make the trip for the Monday night match. Paulo Bento’s men rebounded to ease past Levadiakos last weekend. It was a typical Olympiacos performance as the club looked below par in the first half only to come alive after the break to score four times. Unfortunately, the Erythrolefki are coming into the weekend on the back of another Europa League defeat to APOEL. While the 2-0 reverse did not cost them a place in the Round of 32 of the competition, it has sent some alarm bells. Bento has had a habit of rotating his line-up and recently that has seemed to contribute to some disjointed performances and inconsistency with results.
Olympiacos’ lead atop the SuperLeague puts them in a very comfortable position at this point. However, should any sort of carelessness creep into their game over the next month or so, that could make for a closer title race than would desire. A win away to a team like PAS Giannina would be another message to their domestic rivals that they won’t be giving up their grip atop the table.
Astera Tripolis - Veria
|Asteras Tripolis||8:00 AM||Veria|
A vital relegation six-pointer takes place in Tripoli in Saturday’s early kick-off as hosts Asteras take on Veria. With Dimitris Elefteropoulos’ side on 10 points and Veria only three behind on seven, this match could have major significance with regard to the relegation battle. Both teams failed to win last weekend as Asteras fell to Xanthi 3-1 while Veria nabbed a point in a 1-1 draw at home against Panetolikos.
Asteras captain Dimitris Kourbelis returns to the side after a two-month absence. On-loan Benfica attacker Luis Farina also looks set to come back into the fold.
Xanthi - Larissa
Razvan Lucescu has his Xanthi side firing on all cylinders. Xanthi put an 8-match unbeaten run on the line when they welcome Larisa to the Xanthi FC Arena on Saturday. The club overcame Asteras last weekend 3-1 and are just behind Olympiacos as the form team in the league over the last month and a half.
Larisa meanwhile were defeated by Atromitos at home leaving them just a couple points above the drop zone. Sakis Tsiolis’ team have only won once in their last six matches and have been poor on their travels with only two points from five away fixtures.
Tsiolis will be without suspended duo Andoni Fatjon and Pavol Farkas. Zacharias Kavousakis is the sole player missing through injury.
AEK - Levadiakos
AEK will try to return to winning ways when they host Levadiakos at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening. Jose Morais’ team flattered to deceive again last weekend as they lost another lead finishing with a 1-1 draw. In a match where they should have put the result beyond doubt in the first half, AEK allowed Kerkyra to stick around and paid for their inability to kill off the affair. The result means that the Kitrinomavri are now nine points behind leaders Olympiacos and the prospect of a title challenge looking ever less likely.
Levadiakos did well for 45 minutes last weekend, but eventually succumbed easily to Olympiacos as they endured a 4-0 defeat. Ratko Dostanic has his team looking like a classic midtable side that wins against the teams in the bottom half, but cannot do much against the top half of the table. While that might be too simplistic of a depiction of Levadiakos, the truth is that the team struggle away from home. The Livadeia club has the lowest points total of any away side in the league (one point in four matches).
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos returns for AEK along with Ronald Vargas and Juan Manuel Diaz, who also returns to the squad after a layoff. Petros Mantalos does miss out though due to suspension.
Panetolikos - Iraklis
Iraklis try to make it two in a row when they travel to face off against Panetolikos on Sunday. Savvas Pantelidis’ men are still mired in last place in the standings, however a superb 2-1 comeback win over PAS Giannina on Monday could provide the confidence needed to climb up the table. That victory was the first for Iraklis this season and the manner in which they did win will certainly provide hope that they can avoid the drop.
Panetolikos do not have any relegation worries themselves at the moment, however Giannis Mantzourakis will be urging his side to not be happy with their current 9th place standing. In order to rise up table though, the Agrinio club will have to do better than results like last weekend when they could only draw in Veria. For Panetolikos, Tasos Papazoglou and Miguel Rodrigues are missing from the squad.
Panionios - Kerkyra
Panionios look to regain momentum when they return home to take on Kerkyra. After residing in the top places of the table in the first month and a half of the season, the Nea Smyrni side have faltered since. A return of one win in their last six matches with a paltry three goals scored shows that form has dipped. This is a side with good quality to it, however they are beginning to be dogged by inconsistency. Last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Platanias is a prime example. While not a an awful result in Crete, this is a club that expects more and needs to begin to show it if European football is to become a reality.
Conversely, their opponents this weekend are punching above their weight. Kerkyra are using a solid start at home matches to slowly distance themselves from the relegation zone. The question now is whether Kerkyra can begin picking up more points away. They have drawn their last two matches against heavyweights Olympiacos (away) and AEK (home), so there is proof they can hang with the big boys, and also pick up results away from the island.
PAOK - Platanias
The excuses have run out for PAOK players and only the three points will suffice when they host Platanias at Toumba on Sunday. After another positive performance in Europe on Thursday when they defeated Slovan Liberec 2-0 and progressed to the knockout round of the Europa League, there is a huge expectation to transfer their continental form to the league. Last week’s defeat at Panathinaikos dropped Vladan Ivic’s team down to 11th place, their worst position in over 12 years. Talk of crisis is not exaggeration, yet the results and performances in Europe are a reminder that this is a team capable of so much more.
Platanias don’t make the trip to Thessaloniki in the best of shape either. Giorgos Paraschos saw his team fly out of the gates to start the season, but they have cooled considerably since. A winless run that now stretches to six games has seen the Chania club drop down the table. Currently 12th, Platanias are only four points above the relegation places and there is growing concern that if they don’t improve quickly they will become embroiled in a battle to avoid the drop.
Atromitos - Panathinaikos
Atromitos are playing some of the league’s best football at the moment and they will attempt to defeat Panathinaikos at home in the Sunday late game. Giorgos Korakakis’ side find themselves in 3rd place at the moment and are coming off of two impressive away wins against PAOK and Larisa respectively. Now with the return to home comforts, Atromitos have the chance to leapfrog their opponents this weekend into 2nd spot in the standings with a victory.
Marinos Ouzounidis’ debut as Panathinaikos coach saw him oversee his new club defeat PAOK 1-0. While the performance was far from spectacular, the points gained were a massive boost to the struggling Prasini. That result was followed up by a 2-0 Europa League home defeat to Celta on Thursday night. That loss won’t be particularly disappointing to supporters as Panathinaikos have long since been eliminated from contention to the knockout rounds. With their European exit, at least the club can focus solely on domestic matters as they try to find the consistency necessary to reenter a title race that looks to have passed them by.