Derby of Eternal Enemies Takes Centre Stage
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 25
The Derby of Eternal Enemies takes place this evening at the OAKA Stadium in what is the headline fixture of Matchday 25 of the Greek Super League. AGONAsport’s Nick Tsambouniaris previews the encounter.
This fixture does not need any introducing… the Derby of Eternal Enemies is undoubtedly Greek football’s biggest fixture between Greece’s two biggest clubs. Both teams may be in somewhat of a transition and experiencing troubled times but come Sunday evening, it will all go out the window as both seek to give their fans joy as the season approaches to an end.
Panathinaikos have totally fallen away in the second half of the season and all but lost a European place after such a promising start against all the odds. Meanwhile, Olympiacos are staring down the barrel of two consecutive seasons without any silverware. They have not been able to keep up with PAOK in the League and, just like Panathinaikos, got knocked out by Lamia in the Cup. Beating AC Milan in dramatic circumstances to reach the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League was one of the rare highlights.
Neither club is as powerful and dominant as they once were, and the upcoming summer will be vital in their respective short to medium term futures as they look to rebuild. However, this will not take away from the intensity and any of the feeling from Sunday’s match. To put it simply, these two clubs do not like each other - fans and players alike. Violence in the stands and major on-field controversies are commonplace.
On paper, it is a mismatch as Olympiacos boast the better players with a bigger budget, but that does not mean anything in this derby. It has been that way for some time now, but the Greens have enjoyed all the success in recent years. Olympiacos have not beaten Panathinaikos since 2016 - four derbies on the bounce.
The Reds still own the overall record with 80 wins, compared to the Trifylli’s 50 but the last time they tasted success in an away derby was in 2013. Furthermore, this will be the first derby played at OAKA since 2012 as Panathinaikos moved away from Leoforos at the end of last season.
How the teams lineup and aim to play tactically will also be intriguing. Panathinaikos have illustrated they like to play defensive in derbies so far this season, sitting deep and starting out with three centre backs. Being the home side here, it will be interesting how Giorgos Donis sets out to play, considering the Reds will not be high on confidence either. Olympiacos possess the players and quality in the final third to really do damage to the Greens should they look to open up and chance their arm, with nothing to lose in terms of League standings. They have done this to great effect since their loss at Toumba and put four past AEK, five past OFI, and four past Aris. Should it play out like this, it will then leave Panathinaikos with space to attack at the other end of the pitch and the Reds could grow frustrated if they fail to score early.
However, this means little in such a tense fixture. Passion, energy, and enthusiasm will prevail. These are the hallmarks of Panathinaikos’ triumphs in recent seasons. They know their more illustrious rivals should be winning on paper, but they have dug in and fought for every ball. On top of this, they also boast more Greek players and have had Greek coaches at the helm. This invariably means they will immediately understand the importance of this fixture.
In saying that, given the controversy and ill feeling in the last match at Piraeus last November, Olympiacos will be fired up. In the corresponding fixture, Panathinaikos goalkeeper Sokratis Dioudis stole the show before receiving a nasty injury. Ergys Kace put the Trifylli ahead with one of the greatest derby goals, before Pape Abou Cisse equalised deep in stoppage time to snatch a point for the Reds.
Panathinaikos will look to build upon the defensive grit and determination which helped them see out a goalless draw against AEK, and look to add that extra bit of quality in the final third to regain their scoring touch and send the home fans into raptures. Meanwhile, Olympiacos will look to pick up where they left off against Aris by scoring freely.
Former Panathinaikos hero Djibril Cisse will be in attendance at OAKA. The French striker, who delivered the Greens’ last League-Cup double, has been counting down the days on Instagram and says he is “very excited”.
Team News: Panathinaikos
Youngster Paschalis Staikos has returned to full fitness and is available for selection after completing training. Argiris Kampetsis looks set to miss out through injury and has been put on a recovery program on his own. The same applies to injured centre back Theofanis Mavromatis. Anthony Mounier continues to be an omission due to injury. Giannis Bouzoukis returns from suspension. Giorgos Donis appears likely to continue with his preference of three centre backs for derbies, but is tossing up between a 3-5-2 formation or a 3-4-3 formation.
Possible line-up: Dioudis, Oikonomou, Kolovetsios, Coulibaly, Johansson, Kourbelis, Kace, Bouzoukis, Insua, Altman, Macheda.
Team News: Olympiacos
The only major dilemma for Olympiacos boss Pedro Martins was the fitnes of Egyptian forward Ahmed Hassan. However, he has been cleared as fit to play and Martins has declared he will play a role, although Miguel Angel Guerrero could be the starter. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos remains a long-term absentee with his injury. Aside from that, the Reds will continue to lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Possible line-up: Sa, Elabdellaoui, Meriah, Miranda, Koutris, Bouchalakis, Guilherme, Masouras, Fortounis, Podence, Guerrero.
Referee: Marco Fritz (GER)
Marco Fritz has been selected as the referee to keep the order in the latest installment of the Derby of the Eternal Enemies, in line with this season’s policy of introducing foreign referees in Greek derbies. The German, based in Korb, has been a FIFA-listed referee since 2012 and is a UEFA “Second Group” referee. The 41 year old has been an official in the Bundesliga since 2009 and was in charged of AEK’s home UEFA Champions League qualifier against CSKA Moscow in 2017. Ironically, his debut on the international stage came in 2012 when he was in charged of Greece vs Turkey in the U19 Elite Round of Qualifying for the U19 Euro. His career highlight came in 2016 when he was the referee for the German Cup final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Fritz is a banker by trade.
Referee: Marco Fritz (GER)
Assistant Referees: Dominik Schaal (GER), Marcel Pelgrim (GER)
Fourth Official: Aristomenis Koutsiavtis (GRE)