Top Two Clash, Thessaloniki Derby Headline Weekend
(Matchday 22 Preview)
Matchday 22 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague has interesting fixtures across the board as the race for the playoffs heats up and the league enters the final stretch.
Sunday sees four of the top five teams in action. Perhaps the pick of the matches is Olympiacos and Panionios tangling at the Karaiskakis Stadium. It will be one versus two in that match to see whether Olympiacos can hold onto to their 10-point lead atop the standings.
A Thessaloniki derby is also on the cards for Sunday as PAOK take the short trip to face Iraklis. AEK, fresh off last week’s derby win against Olympiacos, await the arrival of Larisa in the day’s early kick-off. Also, on Sunday, Levadiakos will be desperate for points when they host PAS Giannina.
On Saturday, the weekend schedule commences with Platanias taking on Asteras Tripolis followed by Kerkyra and Panetolikos fighting it out in a midtable affair. Then on Saturday evening, the big match of the day features Xanthi playing host to Panathinaikos.
The Matchday is completed on Monday night when Veria welcome Atromitos.
***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 - panionios
The top two teams in the Greek SuperLeague face off on Sunday night at the Karaiskakis Stadium. Olympiacos and Panionios meet in Piraeus with Paulo Bento’s side seeking to hold on to their 10-point lead at the top of the standings. Panionios could cut the lead to 7 with a win and boost their own chances of solidifying 2nd place with the likes of PAOK and Panathinaikos within striking distance.
Olympiacos were triumphant against Osmanlispor in Thursday’s Europa League action. Thrylos rode a strong second half display to emerge victorious 3-0 and book their place in the Round of 16 of the competition. That result saw a recovery from last week’s 1-0 derby loss to AEK, which saw the team lose for the first time in 15 matches.
Panionios have been in fine form as of late. Vladan Milojevic has his side playing well at a crucial stage of the season and even when the displays are not great, this team has shown an ability to grind out results. The Nea Smyrni club possess the league’s best away record to date and will surely prove a difficult opponent on Sunday.
platanias - asteras tripolis
|Platanias||8:00 AM||Asteras Tripolis|
Supporters of Platanias will expect nothing less than the three points when their side host Asteras Tripolis to kick off Matchday 22 of the Greek SuperLeague play. Giorgos Paraschos has seen his side enjoyed a stellar campaign, one which still sees the Chania club with an outside chance for a playoff spot.
Asteras meanwhile would call their season anything but stellar at this point. Last week’s 5-0 defeat by Panathinaikos at home may well have been the nadir and it was a defeat that cost manager Dimitris Elefteropoulos his job. Youth boss Apostolos Charalambidis has been installed as interim manager. The 49-year-old faces a tough task in repairing a side with fragile confidence after recent results.
kerkyra - panetolikos
Kerkyra and Panetolikos face off in a match without much in the way of significance in the standings. The lack of pressure in Kerkyra could lead to an open game. Both sides seem to be out of the relegation zone battle, though with 8 matches left to play nothing has been ruled out yet.
Both sides are coming off league defeats last weekend. Kerkyra went down narrowly away to PAS Giannina 1-0, while Panetolikos were beaten at home 2-1 by Platanias. For Panetolikos they will be without the services of Clesio, who will serve part of his two-match ban beginning with this match.
xanthi - panathinaikos
Xanthi aim to get back to winning ways when they face suddenly in-form Panathinaikos. Marinos Ouzounidis had seen his side endure a rough patch a few games back, but the Prasini have been on fire since. The team have scored boatloads of goals in their last few matches, with Ouzounidis finding a way to get his previously goal-shy team back on track. The race is on for the influential Paul-Jose M’Poku to be fit for this match-up. After picking up a knock after a wonderful first-half display against Asteras, the Congo midfielder is trying to recover in time for this match.
Xanthi were as high as 2nd in the standings a short while ago, but after a five-match winless run including three straight league defeats, Razvan Lucescu’s team are desperate to land a victory. Last week’s disappointing away defeat to Atromitos also saw the team overtaken by AEK for 5th place and the last playoff spot. The goals have dried up for the Akrites, as evidenced by their total of four scored in their last six matches.
aek - larissa
Fresh off of defeat of Olympiacos in last weekend’s derby, AEK remain home this week to play against Larisa. Manolo Jimenez’s side showed plenty of grit and determination in handing Olympiacos only their second defeat of the season in the 1-0 derby win last Sunday. That result moved AEK up to 5th, in and amongst the playoff places. Jimenez has worked wonders since his return to the club, going undefeated since being appointed last month. The Enosi should see Ognjen Vranjes available for this match. After some initial doubts over his ability to regain fitness in time, the Bosnian defender partook in training this week and will be in the squad.
A 2-1 win over Levadiakos may have been the most important victory of Larisa’s season. Last week’s triumph at the AEL FC Arena took Sakis Tsiolis’ side six points clear of the drop zone. While they are not mathematically out of the woods just yet, the Vyssini can now approach the rest of the season with renewed confidence.
iraklis - paok
A Thessaloniki derby is on tap Sunday as Iraklis host PAOK at the Kaftantzoglio Stadium. Iraklis need a massive win to boost their survival hopes. Picking that up this weekend could provide the momentum needed to finish the season strong and avoid the drop. After a solid 2-2 draw against AEK, Iraklis slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Panionios last week. Savvas Pantelidis were perhaps hard done by that result. Despite playing a man down for nearly an hour of the match, Iraklis had chances to grab a draw from that match. Though they weren’t rewarded with the points, the display offers hope heading into the last part of the season. Giorgos Saramantas, the recipient of that red card versus Panionios, will be suspended for this match.
PAOK are coming off a 4-0 thumping of Veria in their last SuperLeague outing. Vladan Ivic’s side was dumped out of the Europa League during midweek by Schalke. However, despite the European exit, PAOK were able to pick up a credible 1-1 draw in Germany and won praise for a good all-around display. The shift for the club now turns to domestic affairs. 3rd in the league and also in the quarter-finals of the Greek Cup, there is still an opportunity for this season to turn out as a successful one with a strong finish. Yevhen Shakhov will miss this local derby as he serves a suspension for an accumulation of cards.
levadiakos - pas giannina
|Levadiakos||10:15 AM||PAS Giannina|
Levadiakos’ chances for survival could rest on their home matches, like this Sunday’s game against PAS Giannina. Giannis Christopoulos’ team have won only three of their 21 matches all season, but all of those victories have come at the Levadia Stadium. Out of the club’s 14 points, 12 have come at home suggesting that if Levadiakos are to avoid relegation they have to do the work in their backyard.
PAS Giannina meanwhile are coming off a 1-0 win over Kerkyra last weekend. Those three points were enough to keep Giannis Petrakis’ team in the conversation as far as the playoffs go. Their quest for a top 5 finish will not be helped by recent news that defender Nikos Karanikas will miss the next three matches due to an elbow thrown at Panathinaikos’ Marcus Berg two matches ago. That suspension follows developments this week that another defender, Michalis Boukouvalas may miss this weekend’s game due to an injury picked up this week in training.
VERIA - ATROMITOS
Veria will try to remove themselves from the foot of the table when they take on Atromitos on Monday. The club from Central Macedonia are enduring a period of absolutely woeful form. Ratko Dostanic has taken over the team, but saw first-hand last weekend against PAOK (a 4-0 loss) that there is tons of work to do to improve. Veria have lost five of their last six matches, scoring twice and conceding 16 goals in that stretch. Despite the poor form, the club remain just a point from safety as they battle with Iraklis and Levadiakos for survival. Anything resembling a decent run in their remaining matches could still see them avoid the drop.
Atromitos look rejuvenated under new manager Ricardo Sa Pinto. The club have won two in a row as they try to achieve the best possible league finish. Last week, Atromitos were impressive as they saw off the challenge of Xanthi, taking the three points with a 2-1 victory. The Peristeri side are four points off of the playoffs, though that doesn’t seem like an attainable target considering the plethora of teams vying for 5th place.