Winter champions PAOK looking to build on impressive form
PAOK secured the status of winter champions, but can they progress further and earn the Super League trophy? AGONAsport analyses the reasons why the Dikefalos tou Vorra sit in first place.
So far, PAOK have been practically unstoppable in the Super League, winning an incredible 13 out of 14 matches to boast a healthy eight point lead over Olympiacos in first place. Their only setback was a 1:1 draw at Atromitos in Peristeri, and if the Thessalonikis continue such fantastic form, the Super League is firmly theirs to lose. Just remember that PAOK actually started the campaign with a two point deficit due to unsavoury scenes witnessed in the 2017/2018 season.
Let’s take a look at the key reasons why PAOK are sitting pretty in pole position:
This team is a family, willing to work hard for one another and desperate to taste success. Having only lost one player in the off-season, Djalma Campos, they were able to add a mixture of experienced players with the likes of Yevhen Khacheridi and Pontus Wernbloom joining the club, while talented attacking youngster Leo Jaba signed and Amr Warda returned from an impressive loan spell at Atromitos
CLEAR POLICY FROM LUCESCU
Razvan Lucescu is the leader of this exciting project at PAOK. Without doubt, Lucescu’s priority has been to secure the league title, which ultimately saw the team lose focus on the European front and suffer elimination in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League this season. Lucescu plays with a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with PAOK picking up terrific results in the Super League with an outstanding attacking and defensive records.
Following on from last season’s success, Prijovic was fantastic for PAOK in the first half of this campaign, bagging nine goals in just 13 Super League games as the 28-year old Serbian struck key markers against AEK, Panathinaikos and Aris. However, when Al Ittihad decided to activate his release clause of 10 million euros, Prijovic was lured to Saudi Arabia by a hugely lucrative contract and PAOK now have the tricky task of somehow replacing him. This is a headache which Lucescu didn’t need at all.
OTHER RESULTS IN PAOK’S FAVOUR
Results from potential title competitors have worked into PAOK’s advantage. Those clubs that were expected to contend for the league title have dropped points against one another, resulting in PAOK capitalising and extending their gap at the top of the tree in the league standings. Some examples of this occurring in the first half of the season are AEK – Olympiacos 1:1, AEK – Panathinaikos 0:0 and Olympiacos – Panathinaikos 1:1.
The centre-back partnership of Fernando Varela and Angel Crespo has been sensational. After having the best defensive record throughout last season’s Super League, they have improved even further, with PAOK only conceding six goals in 14 matches to this point. Their calmness, crucial interceptions and exceptional build up play from the back allows for PAOK to be heavy favourites to taste success in the league this season.