PAOK is a different team when coming to Athens
The score of the first match at Toumba (3-0) makes it very clear that PAOK will qualify to the Semi-Finals no matter what happens today. Apollon Smyrnis has only one goal, to avoid relegation. They rotated their lineup in the first match and the same will happen today. Can this be enough to give PAOK the win? Mr. Stevens has lost three out of the four matches in Athens this season (Olympiakos 4-0, Kalloni 2-5, Panionios 2-0 and Panathinaikos 2-1) and the three consecutive away defeats in Super League show there is something wrong with PAOK when they leave Toumba.
The preview and prediction for today’s match:
APOLLON SMYRNIS vs. PAOK (On aggregate: 0-3)
Also this season in Super League: 08/12/13 PAOK – Apollon Smyrnis: 0-0
The last home win of Apollon against Xanthi (2-0) has boosted the morale of team. They are out of the relegation placement again but they are not safe yet being only three points away from it. The players of Mr. Sanchez were more determined for the win in their last match and took advantage of the poor morale of their opponent. Despite their 16 attempts on goal (vs. 7 of Xanthi) they scored both goals with the usual “English” trick of Mr. Sanchez; two long throw-ins confused the defenders of Xanthi allowing Minga (8’) and Petropoulos (68’) to score. Apollon also had two attempts at the bar by Lucero (18’) and Petropoulos (75’). Coach Sanchez is expected to make changes in the lineup like in the first match.
Injured: Soouza (DEF/1), Diamantis (MID/7)
Other: Petropoulos (FWD/18/7 goals/2 assists)
PAOK had a bad performance in the last away defeat against Panathinaikos (2-1). The Greens dominated the match adding a lot of pressure to the players of Mr. Stevens who had only 2 attempts on goal (16 for Panathinaikos)! The two goals by Triantafyllopoulos (47’) and Maroto (57’) forced PAOK to a third consecutive away defeat (Panionios 2-0, Platanias 2-1 and Panathinaikos 2-1) and they should feel pleased the home team was not accurate in the many chances they had to score. PAOK deserved to lose by more goals and the late goal of Athanassiadis at 92’ made their defeat look better in a match that can only be characterized as the worst of the season. Coach Stevens is under a lot of pressure because the winter transfers have not improved the performances of the team. They may dominate their home matches but their away stats (5W-2D-5L, goals 18-18) have brought Atromitos two points away. Changes in the lineup are expected while a new negative result is out of the question at this point.
Banned: Katsouranis (MID/21/2 goals/3 assists)
Other: Lino (DEF/17/1 goal/7 assists), Vukic (MID/18/4 goals/1 assist) and Salpiggidis (FWD/22/6 goal/1 assist) are out to rest.
Betting Pick: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.80
No one can explain what is wrong with PAOK. Everyone expected them to have a great season but they keep disappointing their fans. I think they were trying more when they had financial problems and insecurity for their future. I am starting to believe the players are no longer fond of Mr. Stevens otherwise there is no explanation to their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior.
Apollon may not be interested in the competition but Mr. Sanchez is well known for his British mentality and it was clearly shown in the first match where his team tried to resist to PAOK. He was furious in his statements regarding the decision for the referee for the foul kick that helped PAOK score the first goal. This shows he was interested in a positive result and I do expect his team to look for the win although they know they will not qualify.
The more I think of it, the more convinced I am Apollon can avoid the defeat today. The poor morale of PAOK combined with their weak away performances (especially in Athens) make the win of Apollon Smyrnis @ 6.00 a value bet. If you are looking for a safer bet the handicap win of Apollon (+0.5) @ 2.35 can be as good.