Win at all cost
PAOK returns at Toumba today for a second consecutive match behind closed doors and their goal will be to secure a quick win against the newcomers of Niki Volou. Let’s not forget that the players of Mr. Anastasiadis have midweek obligations for the Europa League (Dynamo Minsk) which means they need to save their energy. The preview and analysis:
Analysis: PAOK – Niki Volou
*Attention: Behind closed doors
The players of PAOK were under a lot of pressure after the away defeat from Zimbru (1-0 for the Europa League Play-Offs) and the home draw against Kalloni (1-1) in the opening day of Super League. The demanding fans of the team were not satisfied with what they were watching but things quickly got back to normal. The emphatic home win against Zimbru (4-0) got PAOK in the Group Stage, the new one against Platanias (0-4 away) ended their negative away streak (0W-3D-8L) and the thriller with the contract extension of Athanassiadis (FWD, favorite player of the fans) is finally over (he signed until 2018). Coach Anastasiadis was criticized a lot but he managed to take the pressure off his team and prove in the field that things were not as bad as the fans thought. The goal against Niki Volou is only a win but we should keep in mind the experienced coach is fond of rotating the lineup to have key players ready for European matches. During the break PAOK had a friendly match against Aiginiakos (Football League). The final score was 1-1 but you should keep in mind that a lot of players were used including ones from the U20 team.
Injured: Maduro (DEF/2), Konstantinidis (DEF/0), Kitsiou (MID/1)
Other: Golasa (MID/0) was left out to rest for the midweek match. Deligiannidis (MID/0) is ill.
The newcomers of Niki Volou come from a second consecutive defeat, this time at home from Atromitos (0-1). The players of Mr. Vloet were unable to cause problems to their experienced opponent and the truth is they were very lucky to receive only one goal. They had only 4 attempts to score (all of them off target) with Atromitos having 14 (7 on target) and two attempts stopped by the bar (35’, 70’). If Tabakis (GK) was not in such a good day the score could easily be 0-3 or 0-4. Coach Vloet is under pressure but we should acknowledge that Niki Volou started the new season with a very tough schedule having to face the five top teams of 2013-14 in their first six matches.
Injured: Niklitsiotis (MID/2), Tzioras (FWD/0)
Betting Pick: PAOK (-1.5) to win @ 1.70
If this match was not held behind closed doors I would go for the -2.5 handicap. PAOK can get a professional win even with a secondary lineup. It will be very difficult for the weak defense of Niki Volou to stop experienced players like Athanassiadis and Salpiggidis or the new additions of PAOK, Pereyra (he scored in the first match, he was banned in the second, he scored again in the friendly match) and Papadopoulos (top scorer of Atromitos last season).
PAOK cannot afford a new negative result. The next two matches must be won at all cost. The fans have already sent their message with the dramatic decrease in the sales for season tickets. The more PAOK stays within the goals of the season (as close to Olympiakos as possible, wins in Europa League Groups) the more probable it is to see the fans restore their faith in the team.