Greece Super League Preview: Week 28 (Apr 3)
With Olympiakos having clinched the league title, in Greece the focus now turns to the playoff race and relegation battles in Week 28 action.
Olympiakos’ 6-0 rout of AEK two weeks ago gave the Piraeus side their 38th league title with three matches to spare. They take on Kavala this weekend, a side still harboring playoff hopes.
Olympiakos Volos will try and hold onto the last playoff place when they host Xanthi on Sunday, while Aris seek to maintain their late charge at 5th place with a win against Asteras Tripolis, a side needing points to avoid the drop.
AEK and Atromitos meet at the Olympic Stadium in Athens in a preview of this season’s Greek Cup final. In other matches key to the relegation battle, Kerkyra and Panionios meet in Corfu with both needing points to ensure safety, while Larisa play their last hand in staging a miraculous comeback against relegation when they travel to Thessaloniki to take on PAOK.
Elsewhere in two matches with little bearing on the league table, Ergotelis hosts Iraklis while Panathinaikos travel to already relegated Panserraikos.
It will be party time at the Karaiskakis Stadium on Sunday evening as Olympiakos supporters plan to fill the stands to celebrate the club clinching the league title. Besides celebration, Olympiakos will want to claim the victory against Kavala and keep their perfect home record intact as they vie to become one of only three teams in Greek League history to achieve the feat of winning every home match in a season.
Kavala will be looking to spoil the party as the club still have designs on making it to the playoffs. Three points behind of Olympiakos Volos for the last spot, Kavala have time to make up the difference. They must know though that this match is crucial as a defeat to Olympiakos and win by Volos could see the difference go from three points to six and thus make it nearly impossible to claim 5th place.
AEK and Atromitos face off at the Olympic Stadium in Athens in a preview of the Greek Cup final. That match can wait however as both sides have work to do in the league first. AEK are coming off a humiliating 6-0 defeat to Olympiakos two weeks’ back and must restore confidence after another heavy loss. Manolo Jimenez will also want his team to finish 3rd in the league so that they can begin the playoffs in the strongest position possible.
Atromitos may have had a fairytale run in the Greek Cup, but their league form has suffered because of it. With a tough schedule to close out the season, Giorgos Donis’ side need any points they can manage in order to avoid relegation as the club currently stand two points above the danger zone.
At Volos, the home side will be raring to go against Xanthi. After a crushing Greek Cup semifinal defeat to Atromitos, Olympiakos Volos have the chance to finish the season off in a positive manner by clinching a European place. They are in the driver’s seat with three matches remaining and a three-point cushion over Kavala. A win against Xanthi would make the real favorites to hold on to that important 5th place spot.
Xanthi struggled at times this season, however the club have done well to climb to 8th place in the league. Had the team been more consistent during some stretches this is a side that perhaps could have claimed a playoff place this season considering the way the league table took shape. The appointment of Nikos Papadopoulos has been a good one for the club and the hope is that club can go from strength to strength and be even better next season.
A true midtable clash is on the docket in Crete, where Ergotelis host Iraklis at the Pankritio Stadium. Nikos Karageorgiou’s side will have wished they avoided a recent slump that hindered their hopes of contesting a playoff place. They can find solace in the fact that they have achieved safety with relative ease and with a solid squad and perhaps some new additions can look forward to next season with renewed hope of performing even better.
Iraklis too flirted with relegation at one point this season so having achieved safety in the last few weeks has been greeted with joy by the club’s supporters. Considering the financial problems that have plagued the club since before the season began, having avoided relegation can be viewed as achieving a major goal.
Larisa travel to Thessaloniki to take on PAOK knowing full well that a minor miracle is needed to save them from the drop. Nikos Kostenoglou’s side have had a miserable season and that was encapsulated by their last match against Ergotelis where Larisa took the lead on three occasions only to end up drawing the match 3-3, giving up a tying goal with virtually the last kick of the game.
Even a win may not be enough for Larisa to get back into the race to avoid relegation as at this point they are reliant on other results as well. PAOK on the other hand have come back in recent weeks to occupy fourth spot in the table. Makis Chavos’ team will be looking to solidify that position or even to climb to 3rd in the coming weeks as they aim for the playoffs.
Sakis Tsiolis’ appointment as Aris coach has had a positive effect on the club and offered hope to supporters of a late charge at the playoffs. Looking dead and buried two matches ago in terms of the playoff hunt, Tsiolis has turned around the club’s season with two straight victories which has them dreaming of Europe even at this late stage.
Against Asteras Tripolis this weekend it won’t be easy for Tsiolis and his men as the Tripoli club will be fighting for their very survival. Asteras is currently occupying the last relegation spot and failure to pick up the requisite points in the final three matches will see the team drop to the Football League (Greek 2nd Division) for next season.
At Serres, Panserraikos host Panathinaikos in a match with little to play for. Panserraikos have already been mathematically relegated and will have to play for pride against Panathinaikos. Panathinaikos meanwhile have endured their own disappointment of losing out on the league title and now must begin preparing for the Champions’ League/Europa League playoffs having already clinched 2nd place in the Greek Super League.
It has the makings of a tense affair in Corfu on Sunday when Kerkyra welcome Panionios. Takis Lemonis’ Panionios have defied all the odds with their wonderful second half of the season displays which has brought the club to the verge of safety. Now, three points clear from the drop zone, Panionios surely will be safe if they can manage the three points against Kerkyra.
Bozidar Bandovic insists his side have what it takes to avoid relegation after what has been a poor stretch for the club since the New Year. Still, the good news for Kerkyra fans is that the players have matters in their own hands as they are two points above the last relegation spot and control their own destiny with three matches remaining.