The battle for the first place gets the attention
PAOK and Olympiakos survived not only their midweek European matches but also their domestic ones last weekend. The Champions will now try to expand their +3 points difference to feel safer as it is highly possible they will move to the round of 16 in the Champions League. Needless to say this match is considered a rivalry battle not only for the two teams but also for the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. PAOK is a strong favorite for the second place and IF they will manage to escape with the win on Sunday, it will be the first time after a long time they will be stating they want the title and not just the second place. Logically this match will get all the attention this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the first three matches we have for Saturday:
PLATANIAS – APOLLON SMYRNIS
Platanias was defeated in the last away match against PAS Giannina (1-0) after an average performance. This was end of Mr. Ouzounidis at the bench of the team and Mr. Anastopoulos was called up to replace him. He is considered an expert on improving the morale of the players and he has done great in most of the average teams he has joined. A recent example was OFI last season but he left suddenly to join Atromitos where things did not work that good for him. Nazlidis and Cerra are long absent because of injuries. The same goes for Dimitris and Moral who are recovering and will soon be available.
Apollon Smyrnis kept a clean sheet for the first time this season in the home match against Veria. There are signs of improvement since Mr. Tennes arrived but their overall stats show they do have a weak defense. Their only absence will be Petropoulos (FWD/7/2 goals) who is injured.
Betting Pick: Both teams to score @ 2.10
Those two teams have already faced each other in the Cup and their results were 1-1 at Crete and 2-1 at Smyrni (second match of Mr. Tennes). I believe they will both score again but I expect that Platanias will manage to get the win one way or another. The win of Platanias @ 2.00 is a fair bet while the option of Over 2.5 goals @ 2.50 should not be underestimated.
PAS GIANNINA – OFI
Giannina have announced their new coach, Mr. Tsiolis (former coach of Asteras Tripolis, 2011-2013). Before his arrival they won the home match against Platanias (1-0) under the guidance of Mr. Georgoulopoulos who temporary replaced Mr. Pantelidis while the club’s officials were searching for the best solution at the bench. The players responded well after Mr. Pantelidis left and they are expected to do the same with Mr. Tsiolis who is respected for the work he has done over the two last seasons to Asteras Tripolis. The experienced coach will have the chance for a perfect start having his first match at Zossimades with a full roster.
OFI won the last home match against Aris easily (2-0) and this was the first win for Mr. Sa Pinto in Super League. The red card at Elsner for Aris at 2’ made all the difference for the home side who quickly got the control, added pressure and scored twice (53’ and 71’ – own goal) while they also had more chances to score (one attempt at the goalpost at 60’, 16 more on goal). Bourbos (DEF/10) was not included for personal reasons while Verón (MID/6) Labropoulos (MID/6/1 goal) and Galleti (MID/6) were left out because of injuries.
Betting Pick: Both teams to score 2.20
Both teams have changed their coach recently and their morale is very good after their recent wins. The players of the home side have got used of playing in the worst field of the league and this can be an advantage for them once again. I cannot make any assumptions for the last performance of OFI as they had the advantage of the extra player for the entire match. However I do expect them to be more dangerous than usual, especially now that they are in good morale. I cannot understand why the bookies have reduced the odds on the home win so much and I will stay away. However I find the option of Over 2.5 goals @ 2.60 is a lot more interesting and it pays a lot better.
ARIS – PANATHINAIKOS
Note: This match (like the one of Olympiakos vs. PAOK tomorrow) is considered a rivalry battle mainly between the two cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. Aris and PAOK rarely welcome the two most known teams of Athens (Olympiakos and Panathinaikos) and for this reason the home team is expected to be more motivated for the win tonight.
The red card at Elsner at the second minute of the away match against OFI destroyed the plans of Aris for a positive result. OFI took advantage of the frustration of the opponent, had many chances (16 attempts on goal and one at the goalpost) and finally scored twice during the second half (53’, 71 – own goal). Aris now returns to Charilaou where they are not doing so good this season (0W-2D-2L, goals 2-5) to face Panathinaikos. Coach Milinković will have to deal with four absences as Elsner and Economopoulos are banned while Triantafyllakos and Iraklis are injured.
Panathinaikos had a very good match in the rivalry battle against Olympiakos at Apostolos Nikolaidis last weekend but a late goal from Mitroglou at 90’ destroyed everything the players built during the match. The Champions seemed stressed and without any energy and this allowed the Greens to gain confidence and even look for the win. In fact, is some parts of the match Panathinaikos seemed to be in total control despite the predictions that Olympiakos would be looking to humiliate them at their home. Mr. Anastassiou and the players were disappointed with the result but they all stated they will keep the overall good performance of the team which was their best this season. Spyropoulos (DEF/1) Pranjić (DEF/6) and Bajrami (MID) will not be available because of injuries.
Betting Pick: Both teams to score @ 2.15
Aris is desperate for points and I expect them to look for the win that will boost the confidence of the team. I am beginning to like the attitude by the players of Panathinaikos in their last matches. They are aware they are not the strong team of the past but they use their teamwork to get the points that lead in a Playoff placement. Considering their good away match at Thessaloniki against PAOK (2-1 defeat but they did deserve more) I will risk saying that IF they repeat their last week’s performance they can get the win. However, they rarely keep a clean sheet and the motivation of the home side tells me that we are very close to see a result of Over 2.5 goals @ 2.40. In fact the defensive weaknesses on both sides can even help is to get paid the more risky option of Over 3.5 goals @ 5.00.