TOP TWO FACE-OFF IN PIRAEUS
(Matchday 17 Preview)
From a top-two clash to playoff battles to big matches involving relegation threatened sides, Matchday 17 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague seems to have it all. League leaders Olympiacos, coming off of two consecutive draws, welcome second place Xanthi to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Saturday evening in one of the weekend’s biggest match-ups.
At the other end of the table, Iraklis need nothing but the three points against Veria in the game that kicks off the weekend action. Panathinaikos face a tricky trip to take on Kerkyra on Sunday.
AEK begin yet another new era with a different manager on the bench to play against in-form Asteras Tripolis. Panionios will be aiming to get back on the winning track against Panetolikos.
Two struggling sides meet up in Livadeia on Sunday as Levadiakos and Atromitos clash. Larisa will be wary Platanias’ recent form when they host the Crete club this weekend.
Finally on Monday, a crucial match with playoff repercussions takes place in Giannina as PAS host PAOK.
***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: OLYMPIACOS - XANTHI
It’s a top-two clash with Olympiacos and Xanthi meeting up in this week’s AGONAsport Match of the Week. Xanthi make the long trip to Piraeus shorn of some of their best players. Suspensions have wreaked havoc on Razvan Lucescu with the Romanian needing to dig deep into his roster for Saturday night fixture. Three defensive stalwarts will be absent, the most notable being Christos Lisgaras. The 30-year-old defender serving out the last of his three-match ban for a horror tackle on Seba the last time these two teams meet a fortnight ago.
Also missing for Xanthi is midfielder Pablo de Lucas and perhaps most crucially Younes Hamza. The Tunisian striker suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards will be a big absence as he currently is joint SuperLeague scoring leader.
Olympiacos have no such problems, but there could be some issues with the club’s current psyche. After two draws in consecutive games, there is a real clamor from fans for a response from their team this weekend. Though they have a 7-point lead over Xanthi and even bigger advantage over their traditional rivals, the pressure is high for the Erythrolefki.
Paulo Bento’s position is not completely safe it seems as every draw seems to bring increasing criticism over the team’s performances.
IRAKLIS - VERIA
In perhaps their match of the season, Iraklis host Veria on Saturday afternoon. Savvas Pantelidis and his players must understand the magnitude of this match, especially because they are facing off against another side who are not yet clear of the drop zone.
Iraklis have consistently put forth good performances this season considering the financial problems the club is undergoing. Unfortunately for the Giraios supporters that hasn’t resulted in points and the club have been in last place most of the season.
This match then takes on vital importance for the hosts, but for the away side the chance for solidifying safety is also real. Veria have shown improvement in the New Year, but they are not yet out of the woods. Thomas Grafas will be counting on his side to pick up a rare away win.
PANIONIOS - PANETOLIKOS
Panetolikos head to Nea Smyrni to play Panionios buoyed by a midweek win against AEK. In Giannis Christopoulos’ first game in charge of the club, Panetolikos came from behind to beat AEK powered by a Grigoris Makos brace. After a tough stretch that saw Giannis Mantzourakis lose his job as manager, Panetolikos could climb to as high as 7th with a win this weekend.
Panionios meanwhile have been consistently in the top 4 most of the season, going as high as second in recent weeks. A 1-0 defeat in Giannina during midweek play was a tough loss, but there is every reason to believe that the club will snap up one of the playoff places. To ensure that happens then home form needs to improve. Panionios have won three of seven matches in their stadium, a statistic that must get better if they are to solidify a spot near the top.
AEK - ASTERAS TRIPOLIS
|AEK||8:00 AM||Asteras Tripolis|
The second stint of Manolo Jimenez at AEK begins this weekend at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. The Kitrinomavri are pitted against improving Asteras Tripolis as the Spanish boss returns to the club he led to Greek Cup success in 2011. However, Jimenez inherits a side low in confidence and in crisis as far as the league table goes.
Currently 6th, AEK have a lot of work to do to even make the playoffs. The team are coming off a 3-2 reverse against Panetolikos which was the end of Jose Morais’ reign at the club. Will Jimenez be the savior this team need? Time will tell, but certainly it doesn’t appear to be an easy task to start with.
Dimitris Elefteropoulos has received praise from many quarters as of late for his work as Asteras. While the club’s 10th place position at the moment is not great, Elefteropoulos has his team playing well and earning results against some of the league’s top teams. After a rough start to the season, this is certainly a team that is on the up.
LARISSA - PLATANIAS
Picking up the points at home must be the main mission for Sakis Tsiolis’ Larisa side. As the Vyssini prepare for the arrival of Platanias this weekend there is concern as to whether the club can claim enough points in the coming matches so as not to worry about relegation. A plethora of new signings is the way the board seem to believe will shoot Larisa up the table. No club in the division has come close to signing as many players in the January window as Larisa have. Those new recruits will have to compensate for the loss of influential Brazilian attacker Dodo. The 29-year-old suffered injury during the 1-1 draw with Veria and has been ruled out up to four months.
Platanias’ 2-1 loss to Panathinaikos on Thursday brought to an end a decent run in recent matches for Giorgo Paraschos’ team. If the Chaniotes can figure out how to win on their travels, then quite simply this would be a team fighting for the playoffs. Instead, it appears that this is a good team whose ceiling is perhaps just above midtable.
LEVADIAKOS - ATROMITOS
Can Levadiakos avoid an 8th straight defeat? That is what Giannis Christopoulos’ side must answer this weekend against Atromitos. Two months it would have seemed very unlikely for Levadiakos to be down in the relegation zone at this time. However a complete blackout since has seen the club go from midtable security to fearing for the drop. Ratko Dostanic was let go and the hopes are that Christopoulos can right the ship.
While not at the same level of lost form, Atromitos have been slumping as of late too. Over the last six matches, Giorgos Korakakis’ team have won only once. The Peristeri side are coming off a 4-1 home defeat to Kerkyra. Though they played with 9-man for some of that match, the result was another indication that things are not going well at the moment. Red cards for Paul Keita and Spyros Gougoudis mean they will miss out on this match.
KERKYRA - PANATHINAIKOS
Panathinaikos face a tricky island trip when they take on Kerkyra on Sunday. Marinos Ouzounidis’ side are coming off a rather comfortable 2-1 victory over Platanias on Thursday. That win brought them to within 10 points of Olympiacos at the top. While the title doesn’t seem to be a target at this point, there is real intent for the club to put together a run of wins to at least solidify second place. The good news for Ouzounidis is not only the three points against Platanias, but also the fact that Marcus Berg rediscovered his scoring touch with a brace in that game. If the Swedish striker is in form, Panathinaikos are simply a different side.
A 4-1 win away to Atromitos had many who follow the SuperLeague sit up and take notice of Kerkyra this week. Michalis Grigoriou’s side put together an emphatic win and perhaps something to build on going forward. At home, the Faiakes have been perennially strong. A second win, especially against a big team like Panathinaikos, could propel this team to a positive second half their campaign.
PAS GIANNINA - PAOK
|PAS Giannina||12:30 PM||PAOK|
Implications on the playoff race will be had when PAS Giannina and PAOK square off on Monday night. Both teams head into the match on the back of midweek wins. Two points separate the two teams ahead of this fixture and PAOK could leapfrog PAS into 5th place with a victory.
The state of the pitch will be a big question mark come Monday. Giannina defeated Panionios 1-0 on Wednesday in a big win for Giannis Petrakis’ side. That victory came on a waterlogged pitch upon which it was impossible to play quality football.
Meanwhile, PAOK had no trouble defeating Levadiakos on Thursday. The win brings the Thessaloniki giants back to within striking distance of the top 5. With a couple new members of the squad, there is an air of optimism for those surrounding the club that the second half of the season will be better than the first. A win at the Zosimades could well prove that statement right.