Survival battle approaching climax
Only three rounds remain in the 2018/2019 Super League, and while Apollon Smyrnis are gone and Levadiakos teeter on the brink, six other teams are fighting desperately to stay afloat in the top flight.
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Rock bottom Apollon Smyrnis have long accepted their fate, and if nothing changes, Levadiakos will suffer the same pain. At the moment, the Livadeia club are five points away from 13th placed PAS Giannina with only three matches remaining, and two of their upcoming games are against PAOK and AEK. Levadiakos must beat Panionios at the weekend to keep their faint hopes alive for at least another week.
OFI are in major trouble. The Cretans only returned to the Super League last year, but after 27 rounds, they sit in 14th position and have the threat of a relegation punishment hanging over them for alleged match-fixing in the 2017/2018 Football League season. In their previous game, OFI defeated direct relegation rivals PAS Giannina to give themselves a fighting chance, and they need points against Panathinaikos in Athens to keep in touch. With the likes of Felipe Souza, Juan Neira and Ricardo Vaz on their team, OFI are capable of playing attractive football, however their poor finishing has let them down on several occasions.
The 0:1 defeat at the hands of OFI on matchday 27 means PAS Giannina are still in danger of direct relegation. PAS have a one-point buffer over OFI, and as it stands, the Ioannina team will play Platanias in the relegation/promotion playoff to participate in the 2019/2020 Super League. Nevertheless, given that Asteras Tripolis and Xanthi are within touching distance, PAS certainly haven’t given up hope of clinching safety in the regular season.
Asteras Tripolis are continuing to plunge. In what has been an awful season, Asteras find themselves sitting in a disappointing 12th position of the standings, only two points ahead of PAS. In their previous game, they could only play to a lacklustre goalless draw with Levadiakos in Tripoli, and the away match on Sunday against PAS is absolutely crucial for both sides. The winner will be left with a great opportunity to remain in the Super League without the worry of a playoff.
Xanthi, a club which has often punched above its weight in the Super League, occupy 11th place and have a three-point advantage over PAS Giannina. Their main problem has been the lack of scoring. Recently, Xanthi had been on a nine-game scoreless streak in the championship, but to their credit, they showed character in defeats to PAOK and AEK in Pigadia. Xanthi’s last two away games are daunting ones against Olympiacos and Aris.
AEL are flirting with an inadvertent slip down the trapdoor. As it stands, Larissa are 10th, but their concluding matches are against PAOK, AEK and Olympiacos, games in which it will be tough to pick up any points at all. In comparison to PAS’ 26 points, Larissa have gained 30, and it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to avoid the relegation/promotion playoff. It promises to be a nervy few weeks for the organisation.
In ninth, Panionios are six points clear of PAS, and unless they lose all three of their final matches against Levadiakos, PAS Giannina and Asteras Tripolis, the Nea Smyrni based club should be safe.
2018/2019 Super League standings between 9th and 15th position:
9. Panionios, 32 points
10. AEL, 30 points
11. Xanthi, 29 points
12. Asteras Tripolis, 28 points
13. PAS Giannina, 26 points
14. OFI, 25 points
15. Levadiakos, 21 points
Concluding three 2018/2019 Super League fixtures for the seven clubs in question:
PAS Giannina (H)
Asteras Tripolis (A)
Apollon Smyrnis (H)
PAS Giannina (A)
Asteras Tripolis (H)
Asteras Tripolis (H)