Second place and pride at stake
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE - MATCHDAY 6
In the concluding match of the 2018 UEFA Nations League, Greece host Estonia at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, with all hopes of earning promotion to League B already extinguished. AGONAsport previews the game.
The maiden UEFA Nations League campaign has been a struggle for the Greeks. In five matches in Group 2 of League C, the Ethniki Omada have registered nine points with three victories, but damaging defeats to Hungary (1:2) and Finland (0:2) cost Michael Skibbe his job as head coach and put paid to any promotion hopes. On Thursday, Greece gained revenge on the Finns 1:0 at home in Angelos Anastasiadis’ maiden match at the helm, however the slender defeat was enough for Finland to clinch first place in the group. Whatever happens in the final round of games, Finland cannot be caught due to a superior head-to-head record over Greece.
Estonia have struggled terribly and are on their way to League D. So far, the former Soviet nation possesses just the single point in Group 2, with that coming in a pulsating 3:3 draw against Hungary in Tallinn on October 15. The Estonians can’t rise above fourth position and are doomed to fate of relegation. In their previous fixture, Estonia were no match for third placed Hungary, dropping a 0:2 defeat with Willi Orban and Adam Szalai scoring for the victors in Budapest.
Back in September, the Ethniki defeated Estonia in the first match of the Nations League, earning a 1:0 victory thanks to Konstantinos Fortounis’ excellent goal after 14 minutes of play. Overall, Greece comfortably controlled proceedings in Tallinn, spurning several chances to extend the advantage and win the game in a more emphatic manner. For their part, Estonia rarely troubled Vasilis Barkas in the Greek net.
Greece require a point to secure second spot of Group 2. In the event that the Ethniki Omada lose, Hungary could snatch the runners-up position, but they have to defeat Finland to stand any chance of overtaking the Greeks.
The Ethniki even hold an outside chance of somehow sneaking into the qualification playoffs for UEFA Euro 2020 with second place. More information concerning the process can be found HERE.
TEAM NEWS: GREECE
In the first half of the win over Finland, centre-back Kostas Manolas received a nasty ankle injury, and he was subsequently replaced by Atromitos star Spyros Risvanis in the Greek squad. Konstantinos Mitroglou, Dimitris Siovas and Dimitris Kourbelis all missed Saturday’s training and it’s highly unlikely they’ll be available for selection in this game.
Anastasiadis had already hinted that major changes will be made to the line-up against Estonia. Goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis, who has been in superb form with PAOK, will probably make his debut between the sticks. Super League top scorer Efthymis Koulouris is set to lead the attacking line while Giorgos Masouras and Dimitris Giannoulis could make their debuts with the Ethniki.
Possible line-up: Paschalakis, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, Lampropoulos, Giannoulis, Zeca, Samaris, Masouras, Karelis, Bakasetas, Koulouris.
TEAM NEWS: ESTONIA
Only two Estonia players have hit the jackpot in the Nations League: Siim Luts and Henri Anier. Those two goals arrived in the 3:3 draw against Hungary, with the third Estonian marker being inadvertently scored by Hungarian defender Mate Patkai.
Luts and Anier are present in the Estonian roster and will offer the biggest threat to the Greek defence. Veteran 34-year old goalkeeper Mihkel Aksalu has competed in all five Nations League games, conceding on six occasions.
Possible line-up: Aksalu, Vihmann, Tamm, Teniste, Pikk, Dmitrijev, Antonov, Vassiljev, Ojamaa, Luts, Anier.
REFEREE: YEVHEN ARANOVSKY (UKR)
On October 25, 42-year Ukrainian referee Yevhen Aranovsky oversaw PAOK’s 0:2 home defeat to Vidi in the UEFA Europa League, handing out five yellow cards. In the same competition, Aranovsky also refereed AEK Larnaca’s 2:4 loss at Bayer Leverkusen, cautioning nine players in the process.
In Europa League qualifying, Aranovsky was in charge of the B36 Torshavn - Besiktas (0:2) and HJK Helsinki - NK Olimpija (1:4) games.
Referee: Yevhen Aranovsky (UKR)
Assistant referees: Oleg Pluzhnyk (UKR), Semyon Shlonchak (UKR)
Additional assistant referees: Serhiy Boyko (UKR), Anatoliy Abdula (UKR)
Fourth official: Christos Akrivos (GRE)