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Derby of the Eternal Enemies (Matchday 25 Preview)

Derby of the Eternal Enemies
(Matchday 25 Preview)
 

Matchday 25 of the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague by the mother of all domestic derbies, as Olympiacos and Panathinaikos lock horns at the Leoforos Stadium on Sunday evening. Besides pride and bragging rights, the derby between the ‘eternal enemies’ comes at a crucial stage of the season with Olympiacos trying to keep their league lead intact while Panathinaikos battle to clinch a playoff spot. 

Another derby, not a historical one, but based on this year’s standings takes place earlier on Sunday in Toumba Stadium. It's 2nd versus 3rd as Panionios make the trip to Thessaloniki to face off against PAOK. 

While those two matches headline the weekend action, important matches abound as the end of the league campaign approaches. 

AEK continue their challenge for a playoff place when they visit Atromitos on Saturday. Xanthi need to avoid a slip-up at home against a Levadiakos side despair are for points in order to stay up. 

Also on Saturday, Larisa welcome Panetolikos and Veria host Kerkyra. Veria are in dire need of points as they look to be headed down a division while Larisa need the same as they are not quite out of the relegation picture yet. 

Two other matches concerning relegation-threatened sides round out the weekend schedule. Asteras Tripolis could do with a win against PAS Giannina while on Monday night, Iraklis make the trip Crete to play a Platanias team still with playoff hopes.
 


***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. All time are listed in EST, which is SIX hours BEHIND the local Greek time (due to the time change in the USA).


GAME OF THE WEEK: PANATHINAIKOS - OLYMPIACOS

Panathinaikos 1:30 PM (EST) Olympiacos
Sun, 19-Mar

The derby of the ‘Eternal Enemies’ is set for Sunday night at Leoforos Stadium. Panathinaikos host Olympiacos in a match where the Prasini could jump to 3rd place with a victory and solidify their playoff status. Despite a defeat away to Xanthi two weeks ago, Marinos Ouzounidis has seen his side embark on a decent run of form. In their last six matches, Panathinaikos have lost only once, winning three times and scoring 16 while conceding only three goals. At home, the Trifylli have been impressive with only a single defeat in their 11 matches at Leoforos. 
This week Ouzounidis saw the return of Nikos Marinakis to full training. Giorgos Koutroubis did not participate in training earlier this week, but since has returned to the fold and is available. 

After defeating Atromitos 2-0 last weekend, Olympiacos were able to get their league campaign back on track after three straight defeats. However, the joy was short-lived as the team were subject to a heavy defeat in Turkey at the hands of Besiktas as they crashed out of the Europa League (5-2 on aggregate).

Vasilis Vouzas’ men now have a chance to rebound straight away, but they head to Leoforos once again with confidence low. Vouzas is expected to ring the changes for this weekend’s derby. Nicola Leali’s nightmare match against Besiktas on Thursday means he will give way to Stefano Kapino who is back to full fitness. Also welcomed back to side is Chori Dominguez who had previously been frozen out by former boss Paulo Bento. Brazilian winger Seba is also set for a starting place after coming through part of the Besiktas match as a substitute following his recent injury. 


veria - kerkyra

Veria 9:00 AM (EST) Kerkyra
Sat, 18-Mar

It’s do or die for Veria as they get set to take on Kerkyra this weekend. The SuperLeague’s cellar-dweller is now five points from safety. As the weeks pass and the losses pile up, Veria are seemingly sure bets for the drop. One win could change things dramatically however. And against a potentially indifferent Kerkyra side who are safely midtable and who don’t travel particularly well, this could be a huge opportunity for Ratko Dostanic’s men to grab a vital win. 

Kerkyra were anything but indifferent last week though in a shock 1-0 win over Xanthi. Not only did that result further complicate Xanthi’s ability to get into the top 5, but it showcased that at home and on their day, Kerkyra are a side to be reckoned with. Considering Atromitos’ tough schedule down the stretch and PAS Giannina’s dip in form, a good ending to the season could the Faiakes climb to as high as 8th in the table which would be considered a huge success for Michalis Grigoriou and his players. 


larissa - panetolikos

Larissa 11:15 AM (EST) Panetolikos
Sat, 18-Mar

Larisa and Panetolikos meet at the AEL FC Arena on Saturday in a match that could finally drag Larisa out of the relegation conversation once and for all. Sakis Tsiolis’ team have been unable to pick up the points necessary to be deemed safe, but victory over Panetolikos would all but assure supporters that their side will remain in the top flight. Tsiolis will see five players return to the fold this weekend, but will not be able to select Adnan Aganovic and Lehlogonolo Masalea due to suspension and Dodo and Tikoto because of injury. 

Panetolikos are coming off a credible 0-0 draw away to PAS Giannina last weekend. All four of Larisa’s league wins this season have come at home while Panetolikos have won one once in 12 away fixtures. That  suggests a Larisa victory is the most likely result, but Panetolikos have shown they are a gritty side this season. Makis Chavos look set to be without Alvaro Rey for this match as well as the suspended duo of Dimitris Chantakias and Clesio. The good news is that forward Marko Markovic is fit again and should feature.


atromitos - aek

Atromitos 1:30 PM (EST) AEK
Sat, 18-Mar

AEK will try to keep the good times rolling as they travel the short distance to play Atromitos on Saturday evening. AEK dispatched of PAOK 3-0 last Sunday in another example of how their season has improved dramatically since the return of Manolo Jimenez to the club. The two clubs are in similar situations at the moment as Ricardo Sa Pinto has also returned to Atromitos for a second stint and his side have responded very well to his appointment.

AEK will be without a quartet of injured players at the weekend. Hugo Almeida, Patito Rodriguez, and Michalis Bakakis all miss out as does long-term absentee Dmytro Chygrynskiy. Atromitos welcome the return of Kyriakos Kivrakidis to the starting eleven and otherwise have a full squad from which to select. 


paok - panionios

PAOK 9:00 AM (EST) Panionios
Sun, 19-Mar

PAOK received a double blow in the last weekend ahead of this Sunday’s massive match against Panionios. Last weekend’s 3-0 drubbing by AEK was one of PAOK’s worst displays of the season and in the aftermath it was learned that Aleksandar Prijovic will miss up to six weeks due to injury. Prijovic, a January signing, has been superb for the club over the last two months, scoring goals and establishing himself as the first-choice striker. Now with Panathinaikos, AEK, and even Xanthi within striking distance of 3rd place which PAOK currently occupies, a big result is needed this weekend against high-flying Panionios. PAOK do have some additional injury concerns though as Djalma Campos, Leo Matos, and Stelios Malezas will all be late decisions for inclusion in the squad. 

Panionios keep winning matches and are the form team of the SuperLeague. While very few rate their title chances, Vladan Milojevic’s remain just six points behind leaders Olympiacos at the top. That lead could be cut by as much as half should Panionios pick up a win in Thessaloniki and Olympiacos lose their weekend derby against Panathinaikos. Judging by Panionios’ recent form, that scenario is not as unlikely as it might have seemed in the past. Milojevic will have to contend with the absence of Spyros Risvanis (suspension) and Taxiarchis Fountas (injury) for this vital encounter meaning two of the team’s most important players this season will be missing.


asteras tripolis - pas giannina

Asteras Tripolis 11:15 AM (EST) PAS Giannina
Sun, 19-Mar

With their season appearing to be ending in a relegation fight, Asteras Tripolis seek points against PAS Giannina on Sunday. 

Staikos Vergetis has returned to Asteras Tripolis and last week was able to lead his side to a point against Levadiakos. That might not seem like a big deal, however that point kept Asteras five points clear of the drop zone and three ahead of Levadiakos. 

PAS Giannina make the trip to Tripoli wanting to stop their free-fall down the table. Now seven points behind the playoffs, PAS are almost surely out of Europe next season barring a magnificent run in these last six matches. Giannis Petrakis is awaiting word on Friday whether a trio of players are can take part in this weekend’s match. Apostolos Skondras, Higor Vidal, and Kostas Peristeridis all missed some training sessions this week. 
 


xanthi - levadiakos

Xanthi 11:15 AM (EST) Levadiakos
Sun, 19-Mar

Xanthi and Levadiakos meet up with differing goals on Sunday. For Xanthi, the plan is to rebound from a shock defeat to Kerkyra last week and get their playoff chances back on track. Razvan Lucescu cannot count on the services of Wallace who received a straight red card last week. That expulsion brought to the fore the worrying stat that seven Xanthi players have been sent off this season, by far the most in the league (two straight reds, five red cards after a second yellow). 

For Levadiakos, last week’s 1-1 draw at home to Asteras Tripolis was extremely disappointing. With a victory they could have received some much needed breathing space from the bottom two and dragged Asteras into deeper trouble. Ultimately they were unable to hold on for the victory and there was tension in the end between a group of supporters and manager Giannis Christopoulos.


platanias - iraklis

Platanias 1:30 PM (EST) Iraklis
Mon, 20-Mar

It's all about the playoff push for Platanias as they host Iraklis on Monday night in Chania. Giorgios Paraschos’ side have enjoyed a solid campaign and they want to end it with a playoff spot. That is still a tough ask though the Chaniotes are only two points off the pace with six matches remaining.

For the majority of the season, Iraklis’ performances haven’t been poor, in fact the embattled club have been punching above their weight. The problem for Savvas Pantelidis’ men is that they have been unable to turn draws into wins. Along with AEK, Iraklis have the most ties in the division with 10. Heading into the final stretch of the campaign, the Thessaloniki club need to find a way to win matches as draws probably won’t cut it. That said, a point in a difficult away fixture at Platanias would be gladly accepted.
 

 
by: Giorgos Tsitsonis. Contact the writer at tsitsonisg.agonasport@gmail.com
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