Lopes and Livaja handed damaging four-match bans by UEFA
In a huge blow to AEK Athens’ UEFA Champions League hopes, the influential Helder Lopes and Marko Livaja have been dealt four-match bans for the group stage, in turn giving head coach Marinos Ouzounidis an unwanted headache.
With only 10 minutes remaining in the Champions League playoff second leg against Vidi, left-back Helder Lopes received a cheap red card for an off the ball incident, appearing to headbutt an opposing player. At the time, AEK were leading 3:2 on aggregate and one Vidi goal would have seen the match go to extra time, but the Kitrinomavri managed to see out proceedings and progress.
However, when the final whistle blew, 25-year old Croatian striker Marko Livaja got involved in a skirmish with Vidi’s Danko Lazovic and was handed a sending off for kicking the opponent. Unfortunately for AEK, UEFA revealed on Monday that both Lopes and Livaja have consequently been banned for the first four matches of the Champions League group stages, meaning they will miss the games against Ajax (A), Benfica (H) and Bayern Munich (H, A). AEK do have the opportunity to appeal UEFA’s decision but Europe’s footballing governing body rarely change their ruling.
In addition, forward Anastasios Bakasetas will sit out the opening game against Ajax in Amsterdam (September 19) as he serves the second of a two-match ban for his red card in the playoff first leg with Vidi in Budapest.
BOYE AVOIDS SURGERY
On the other hand, Argentinian winger Lucas Boye doesn’t require surgery for an abdominal problem and is expected to return to action in time for the second Champions League group stage assignment against Benfica on October 2. In early August, Boye felt discomfort while warming up for the third qualifying round clash with Celtic in Glasgow, and he’s sat on the sidelines ever since. The 22-year old was signed on loan from Torino in the summer.