Tight schedule ahead

The first day of the Quarter Finals for the Greek Cup is already behind us and Super League opens Day 22 with the three Saturday matches. In case you are wondering why there is not a Monday match available this time, the reason is simple; it is because of the midweek action that is scheduled for Wednesday (05/02/14, 8 matches) and Thursday (06/02/14, one match).

Most of the Super League clubs are not used to consecutive matches. With the exceptions of the top five clubs, most of them cannot even rotate their lineups without affecting their performances. This is why I strongly advise you to think twice before placing your bets on any match scheduled for Day 22, Day 23 and Day 24. Do not be surprised if some clubs will “choose” matches that will fight more as none of them is willing to end this period with zero points.

The previews and betting picks for Saturday:

PAS GIANNINA vs. LEVADIAKOS

Giannina lost the last away match against Atromitos much easier than the score shows (1-0). The home team added a lot of pressure during the first half where they had an attempt at the bar (22’ Papadopoulos) and many chances to score at least two goals. The goal of Papadopoulos at 33’ gave the team from Peristeri the lead but their performance was not as good during the second half. Giannina tried to take advantage of it but they did cause any real problems to the defense of Atromitos who was already thinking of the midweek Cup match against Olympiakos. Coach Petrakis (former coach of Ergotelis) was officially announced during the week and his goal will be a winning debut against Levadiakos. Songo’o (MID/3) and Vila (FWD/19/2 goals) are injured and they will miss this match.

Next matches for Giannina: Xanthi (Away), Panetolikos (Home)

The last home match of Levadiakos against Aris (4-3) was by far the most interesting and tensed I have watched in Super League this season. Aris showed significant signs of improvement with the recently added players. One of them, Bakassetas scored twice (30’, 48’) giving his team an important advantage for the win. The players of Levadiakos had been adding pressure since the score was still at 1-0 but they refused to give up. Kotsios scored at 64’ with a header to put Levadiakos back in the match while Aris was left with a man down at 77’. Surprisingly Manias scored again for Aris at 82’and from that point and on the home team dominated the match by scoring three goals in 11 minutes (84’, 86’, 95’) forcing the players of the opponent into a new defeat. Coach Karageorgiou has every right to feel pleased with his team after this spectacular win. Their morale is superb and they will now look for their first away win of the season at Zossimades. Manolo Martínez (DEF/13) is banned and he will be the only absence for this match.

Next matches for Levadiakos: Apollon Smyrnis (Home), Kalloni (Away)

Betting Pick: Giannina to win @ 1.75

Giannina showed signs of improvement in the last away match against Atromitos although they should have received at least one more goal. The arrival of Mr. Petrakis combined with their home strength (7W-0D-4L, goals 13-10) and their necessity for points show that the home win has good chances to come true here. Levadiakos is too weak when playing away (0W-1D-10L, goals 7-25) and I doubt they can steal anything from a team that is stronger than them anyway. Giannina have a harder schedule and if they will not win today they will be in big trouble. Considering the weak defense of Levadiakos when they play away, the win of Giannina (-1) @ 3.20 must not be ignored.

ARIS vs. SKODA XANTHI

The last away defeat from Levadiakos (4-3) was another hit to the low confidence of Aris this season. Things looked great for them as they had a good performance after the additions of the recently transferred players in their lineup. One of them, Bakassetas gave the team a two goal lead (30’, 48’). The home team did not quit and they added pressure for a goal that finally came at 64’ (Kotsios). Things got more complicated at 77’ when Bougaidis (also new transfer) received a red card but the third goal at 82’ (Manias) made everyone think Aris had locked the win. No one can explain what happened in the last 11 minutes where Levadiakos dominated the match by scoring three goals (84’, 86’, 95’) with the players of Aris being in a defensive panic. Coach Papadopoulos was very disappointed in his statements after the match as he was unable to understand how his team ended up with nothing (there also have been some complains for the referee). Bougaidis (DEF/1, new transfer) is the only reported absence for this match because he is banned.

Next matches for Aris: Panetolikos (Away), Panionios (Home)

Xanthi had a good overall performance in the last home match against Olympiakos (0-2). They had a great chance to take the lead at 19’ after a serious mistake by Roberto Jiménez (GK). Olaitan scored for Olympiakos at 24’ and things became easier for the Champions when De Guzman received a second yellow at 47’ for stopping a counter attack with his hand. Despite their disadvantage, Xanthi added pressure for the equalizer and the red card at Holebas (73’) made things look a bit easier as Olympiakos had an average performance. The Champions managed to lock their win at 89’ with a goal by Ibagaza after a perfectly executed counter attack. Coach Maurer was satisfied with the efforts if his team and he will have to deal with the absences of Mucuana (DEF/16), Calvo (MID/19/3 goals, injured) and De Guzman (MID/15, banned) for the next match.

Next matches for Xanthi: Giannina (Home), Apollon Smyrnis (Away)

Betting Pick: Aris (DNB) @ 1.55

Do I believe that Aris will save the season? Hmmm, tough question! Their performance against Levadiakos was better and I must admit they looked more dangerous. The players were taught a big lesson and I expect them to be more careful. Xanthi is less dangerous when playing away (1W-3D-7L, goals 12-23) and their 4 defeats in their last five matches are mainly a result of their difficult schedule. Their home strength shows they will have any problems until the end and they can afford to lose some points here and there. I cannot underestimate that Aris got two draws from them last season when they were in trouble again. The odds maybe too low for a home team that has not won yet (0W-5D-5L, goals 5-14) but the win of Aris @ 2.20 looks more probable than ever.

OFI vs. PANATHINAIKOS

Things look up for OFI lately. With the exception of the home defeat against Veria (0-1) the team performs very well even when they fail to get what they want. In their last away draw against Asteras Tripolis (0-0) they were very concentrated on defense and they managed to get a point against a very difficult opponent. They also had a midweek home match against Panionios for the Cup where they won with two quick goals in the second half (61’ Papazoglou, 65’ penalty kick by Kalajdzic). Their win was fair and gave them an important advantage for moving in the semi-finals. Mr. Sa Pinto is pleased to see his team in good form and superb morale. Labropoulos (MID/13/1 goal/1 assist) is out for 2-3 months while Daskalakis (GK/11), Fraggoulakis (MID/8) and Hoyos (MID/13/1 goal) have not recovered from their injuries yet.

Next matches for OFI: PAOK (Away), Panthrakikos (Home)

Panathinaikos had a stressful and average performance last Sunday against Platanias (1-0). Their opponent deserved at least a point at Apostolos Nikolaidis as they had two good chances to score first at 32’ and 37’. The goal of Panathinaikos at 40’ was a big relief for the fans that attended the match. Things were a lot better in the midweek home match against Olympiakos Volou (Football League). Coach Anastassiou was pleased to see his players dominating their opponents (4-0). Olympiakos Volou resisted until halftime but the Greens had made it clear their win was a matter of time. They added more pressure during the second half where they scored all their goals (48’, 57’, 74’, and 89’). In fact their last goal was scored while playing with a man down after the injury of Danijel Pranjić (DEF/15/3 goals) in a point they had completed all their substitutions. The experienced defender is still injured while Zeca (MID/18) is banned.

Next matches for Panathinaikos: Asteras Tripolis (Away), PAOK (Home)

Betting Pick: Both to score @ 2.00

Panathinaikos will have three very difficult battles in a row. They will have to face two strong home teams like OFI (4W-5D-1L, 11-6 goals) and Asteras (6W-5D-0L, goals 20-7) before facing PAOK, who is capable of anything, at home. If they are not careful and concentrated they are in danger of even losing three matches in a row. Coach Anastassiou has done a great job so far with his youngsters and the team is having great performances from time to time. The way those two rivals play tells me that both goalkeepers will have a lot of work to do tonight. I find it highly probable that both teams will score at least once making this match an excellent choice for a bet on Over 2.5 goals @ 2.35.

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