AWAY TESTS FOR BIG SIDES
(Matchday 18 Preview)
Matchday 18 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague features some of the league’s biggest clubs in challenging away fixtures.
Leaders Olympiacos head to Veria on Sunday night facing off against a side looking to steer clear of a relegation battle. Second place Panionios will do well to come away with the three points against an always difficult Asteras Tripolis.
AEK, seemingly rejuvenated in the early days of Manolo Jimenez’s return to the club, travels to test themselves against a Xanthi who have been hugely impressive this season.
Besides Xanthi, Panathinaikos are the only other side in the top 7 that has a home fixture this weekend. Marinos Ouzounidis will expect his team collects nothing but the three points against a struggling Levadiakos.
PAOK and PAS Giannina, both neck and neck in the race for 5th place and the last playoff spot also have away trips to negotiate. PAOK go to Agrinio to play Panetolikos for whom Makis Chavos will make his debut on the bench. PAS Giannina will be up against a tough Atromitos team on Sunday afternoon.
Elsewhere, two matches with some relegation connections occur. Iraklis are running out of time and need a victory against Larisa on Saturday. Kerkyra will look to keep up a recent good spell by grabbing a result in a tough place as they travel to Chania to match up against Platanias.
***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: XANTHI - AEK
The AGONAsport Match of the Week has to be Xanthi versus AEK. Xanthi went down to defeat at leaders Olympiacos last weekend, but without a whole host of regular players, some of who will return this weekend. Despite two recent losses to Olympiacos, Xanthi’s season has gone from strength to strength and their current second place position is proof of this team’s strength and consistency. Joint leading scorer in the SuperLeague, Younes Hamza, returns for Xanthi for this crunch clash. There are injury concerns though. Xanthi will be without Manolis Papasterianos, Petros Orfanidis, and Okan Hatziterzoglou, all battling various injuries.
Manolo Jimenez has breathed fresh life into AEK since rejoining the team last week. Though his second spell at the club is in its infancy, the Spaniard is 2-for-2 since coming to the Kitrinomavri. Wins against Asteras in the SuperLeague and Levadiakos in the Greek Cup have not been completely unexpected, but there does appear to a new verve surrounding the team. The club’s newest addition, Argentine striker Sergio Araujo could feature against Xanthi. The on-loan Las Palmas player is expected to make the matchday squad for AEK. Ronald Vargas, a victim of sickness, will miss out on this match.
IRAKLIS - LARISSA
In Thessaloniki, a massive match for Iraklis against Larisa kicks off weekend play. Having been written off by many as of late as sure relegation candidates, Iraklis came up with a priceless away win against Veria in midweek play (a postponed match from weeks’ ago). The 2-0 victory offered renewed hope for Savvas Pantelidis and his players that they could still survive in the division. With the prospect of Larisa coming to town the belief is growing that a second straight win could be on the cards.
Larisa too have had a difficult campaign. The Vyssini have done just enough it seems to not be one of the bottom two clubs, but their form has been patchy and they have hovered around the drop zone for most of the season.
ASTERAS TRIPOLIS- PANIONIOS
|Asteras Tripolis||10:15 AM||Panionios|
An intriguing match will take place on Saturday in Tripoli. Asteras welcome Panionios to the Theodoros Kolokotronis Stadium in what will be a tough place for the Nea Smyrniotes to pick up the three points. Asteras may have been outplayed en route to a 2-0 away defeat to AEK last week, but overall the post-holiday fixtures have seen the club respond with very strong performances and results. Midtable consolidation has been achieved by Dimitris Elefteropoulos’ team and they face the rest of the season with little pressure.
Panionios meanwhile live with that pressure week by week. However, it’s a good pressure to have for Vladan Milojevic’s team as they are currently second place in the league. And though Panionios go to a difficult ground this weekend, their own away form is encouraging. The club have lost only twice in nine matches on their travels.
PANATHINAIKOS - LEVADIAKOS
After another disappointing draw last week, Panathinaikos will be expected to have little trouble with slumping Levadiakos. Marinos Ouzounidis saw his players manage only a 1-1 draw away to Kerkyra as the team dropped down to 4th in the table. It was another frustrating game for a team that looks to have improved since Ouzounidis took over, but who are still too inconsistent. Ouzounidis won’t be able to count on the injured trio of Rodrigo Moledo, Sebastian Leto, and Niklas Hult for this match.
Panathinaikos will be the heavy favorites in this match regardless. Levadiakos have not won a game in over two months. There was slight improvement last week in the 1-1 home draw with Atromitos that at least broke up a seven-match losing skid. With other sides around them such as Iraklis beginning to win matches, there is a real fear that relegation is now a distinct possibility, something that seemed far-fetched back in November.
PLATANIAS - KERKYRA
Platanias aim to keep up their good form at home when they host Kerkyra on Sunday. The away team are notoriously known as fairly poor travelers. And Kerkyra have not exactly lit it up away from home this season as they have picked up 5 points from a possible 21. The Faiakes are coming off a considerably good result last weekend as they held Panathinaikos 1-1 on the island.
Platanias have earned positive results against the likes of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos at home recently and will believe in their ability to pick up the points against Kerkyra. Last weekend against Larisa, Giorgos Paraschos’ men were frustrated in a 1-1 draw. A win this weekend would certainly be a boost for this side especially with their outside chance of fighting for the playoffs. Platanias warmed up for this fixture with a 1-0 Greek Cup win over PAS Giannina on Thursday, giving supporters of the Crete club hope they can advance to the last 8 of the competition.
PANETOLIKOS - PAOK
Makis Chavos will take in his first match on the Panetolikos with PAOK coming to Agrinio on Sunday. Chavos was appointed last week and saw his side go down to the same PAOK team 4-0 away at Toumba on Thursday sealing their Greek Cup defeat. There does not appear to be any danger of Panetolikos having issues with relegation, but Chavos has been brought in to ensure that club can maintain their midtable placing. Chavos will be hoping his side can rebound quickly against a PAOK team who had their way with his team in the cup. Tasos Tsokanis is a massive doubt for selection into the squad this weekend after picking up a knock this week.
PAOK will be confident on inflicting more pain after defeating Panetolikos already two times in the span of a week. Vladan Ivic will be wary of a potential banana skin type match however and PAOK’s inconsistencies this season mean nothing is a sure thing for this team. There does appear to be a trend of improvement however and after a poor spell which had them as low as 8th, the Thessaloniki club are back in the thick of the playoff hunt.
ATROMITOS - PAS GIANNINA
|Atromitos||10:15 AM||PAS Giannina|
Though both sides have slipped up as of late, Atromitos and PAS Giannina square off on Sunday in a match with playoff implications. Atromitos have won only once in their last six matches, but even so, Giorgos Korakakis’ team are only four points off the final playoff spot. Another good run down the stretch, like they had through fall and early winter, could yet see the Peristeri side become involved in the playoff race.
PAS Giannina are coming off two defeats in the span of a week. Giannis Petrakis saw his side downed by PAOK on Monday and then suffer an away defeat in the Greek Cup at the hands of Platanias. The recent dip in form has taken the gloss off a previously good season for the Giannina side. Though they have every reason to still chase a playoff place, there is an increasing inconsistency in results that threatens to derail the team from having a chance to play in Europe again next season.
VERIA - OLYMPIACOS
Veria host Olympiacos in what should be a straightforward match-up for the league leaders and defending champions. Olympiacos came through a top two clash last week against a depleted Xanthi side with relative ease and on the paper this looks like a mismatch. Karim Ansarifard opened up his scoring account in the midweek 1-1 first leg Greek Cup draw with Aris. The question is now whether Paulo Bento will stick with the Iranian and play him ahead of either Brown Ideye or Oscar Cardozo. In other team news, Luka Milivojevic appears to be available this week after a potential transfer to Crystal Palace seems to have fallen through.
Veria have loads of off-the-pitch issues which include a takeover in the works at the current time. The club are also in search of a new manager as Thomas Grafas was let go after the midweek defeat to Iraklis. That loss also meant that instead of pulling away from the pack, Veria are back amongst the relegation sides, only above the drop zone on goal difference from Levadiakos. If the club were able to grab even a point in this match it would be a welcome boost considering the problems the club currently face.