Third place at stake in Peristeri
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 25
Alongside the Eternal Derby, there’s another tasty Super League clash on Sunday, as Atromitos host AEK in Peristeri with the two clubs battling it out for third place in the standings. AGONAsport previews the battle..
This may be the most important match of the 2018/2019 Super League season for both sides. Reigning champions AEK would hate to finish off the podium, but if they’re to claim third place, they need to at least avoid defeat against nearest challengers Atromitos at the Peristeri Stadium. Just one point separates the two teams after 24 rounds (AEK 44, Atromitos 43).
Assuming either PAOK or AEK win the Greek Cup (the two are on course to meet in the final), the third placed team of the Super League will enter the 2019/2020 UEFA Europa League at the third stage of qualifying instead of the second. Atromitos would love to famously claim a place in the top three, while for their part, AEK cannot put all of their eggs in one basket and forget about the Super League. At their best, AEK are certainly capable of beating PAOK, but if the Kitrinomavri were to finish outside the first three positions of the Super League and not win the Greek Cup, it would be deemed a complete failure of a season. The implications of Sunday’s duel in Peristeri could be huge.
A victory would go a long way to securing third spot for AEK, but a draw would still leave the race wide open, and a defeat would place Atromitos in the box seat with five matches left in the campaign.
Atromitos endured a difficult start to 2019, but since that blip, they have won four out of their previous six Super League matches. However, they struggled last weekend against runaway leaders PAOK, dropping a comprehensive 0:3 defeat. To make matters worse, Brazilian forward Felipe Bruno was sent off for two yellow cards, meaning he will not participate in this match with AEK.
In the Athenian Derby, AEK gave a dismal performance against stuttering Panathinaikos, limping to a lacklustre 0:0 draw which drew a chorus of boos from the home crowd. When Manolo Jimenez replaced Marinos Ouzounidis at the helm, many hoped AEK would finally improve, but the Kitrinomavri have continued displaying poor quality, disjointed football which isn’t easy on the eye. AEK have failed to score in their past two consecutive Super League matches.
In the first half of the season, Atromitos shocked AEK at the OAKA, claiming a dramatic 2:0 victory with two late goals from Spyros Risvanis and Efthymis Koulouris. If the two teams end the campaign level on points, head-to-head record will decide who finishes higher in the table.
The Greek Cup gives AEK a reason to be confident. In the quarter-finals of the tournament, the Enosis overpowered Atromitos, sneaking a controversial 1:0 victory on the road before comfortably winning 3:0 at the OAKA. Ezequiel Ponce and Petros Mantalos scored two goals each in the tie.
TEAM NEWS: ATROMITOS
The headline news for Atromitos is the return of Egyptian midfielder Amr Warda. Recently, the 25-year-old was ostracized from the team after a breach of discipline in the defeat to AEK in the Greek Cup quarter-finals, but head coach Damir Canadi has reinstated him into the squad for this match. Suspended Felipe Bruno sits out the game.
Possible line-up: Theodorakis, Chatziisaias, Risvanis, Karasalidis, Sakic, Umbides, Busuladzic, Katranis, N’Sikulu, Warda. Koulouris.
TEAM NEWS: AEK
Unfortunately for AEK boss Manolo Jimenez, he is unable to call upon the services of the injured Niklas Hult, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Andre Simoes and Petros Mantalos. On the other hand, star Croatian forward Marko Livaja has recovered from illness in time, and Michalis Bakakis has been declared fit to play. Nenad Krsticic is expected to replace Simoes in the centre of midfield.
Possible line-up: Barkas, Bakakis, Oikonomou, Cosic, Galo, Krsticic, Galanopoulos, Boye, Bakasetas, Livaja, Ponce.
REFEREE: SRDJAN JOVANOVIC (SRB)
Previously, foreign referees had only been appointed for major Super League derbies this season, but the Hellenic Football Federation handed Srdjan Jovanovic of Serbia the task of overseeing proceedings in Peristeri.
Jovanovic, 32, has refereed the Hapoel Haifa - Hafnarfjordur (1:1), Basaksehir - Burnley (0:0), Malmo - Midtjylland (2:2), Dudelange - AC Milan (0:1), Rapid Vienna - Villarreal (0:0), Malmo - Genk (2:2) and BATE Borisov - Arsenal (1:0) matches in the 2018/2019 Europa League. He was also in charge for Cyprus’ 1:2 defeat to Bulgaria in the UEFA Nations League on the road.
Referee: Srdjan Jovanovic (SRB)
Assistant referees: Uros Stojkovic (SRB), Milan Mihajlovic (SRB)
Fourth official: Stefanos Koumparakis (GRE)