The second phase of the Cyprus championship gets under way this weekend with the top six teams battling it out for the title and the lucrative European places.
The teams that finished in places 7 to 12 have only one goal in mind, and that is to avoid finishing in 12th place, a position that will mean relegation to the second division along with AEZ Zakakiou and Anagennisi Dheryneias who have already gone down.
With 30 points to be won in this phase a lot of things can change in both groups. However as things stand now three teams are the most likely to battle for the championship, Apoel, AEK and Apollon, with five points separating them.
At the other end one of Doxa, Aris and Karmiotissa seem the most likely candidates for the drop.
The Limassol derby between AEL and Apollon kicks off the championship group on Saturday with AEL still reeling by Pambos Christodoulou’s sudden decision to resign earlier this week from his managerial post, a decision that came on the back of three consecutive defeats.
His assistant Dionysis Dionysiou will take charge of this tough game and he is expected to make a number of changes to the starting eleven that lost to Ermis last week. Airossa is certain to return with striker Arouabarrena also expected to make the starting eleven. Skipper Dossa Junior is still a week or two from full fitness and will sit this game out as well.
Apollon, who dropped a couple of points last week against Anorthosis, will have Sachetti and Sardinero back. Versatile Chambos Kyriacou is suspended and top scorer Maglica is still sidelined through injury.
Apoel travel to Larnaca to face Anorthosis at the Antonis Papadopoulos with manager Thomas Christiansen expected to rest players following their energy- sapping Europa League encounter against Anderlecht on Thursday night.
Astiz and Giorgos Efraim have joined Vinicius on the injury list and are definitely out of the reckoning but Christiansen will have his top scorer Pieros Sotiriou available again after he missed the European encounter through suspension. Attacking midfielder Bertoglio has fully recovered from his lengthy injury.
Anorthosis, who made the last four in the Cup after ousting AEK in midweek, have nothing but their pride to play for as they lag 11 points behind fifth-placed Omonia.
Coach Rony Levy, who has done wonders since taking over the reins of the Famagusta team, will be without Kyriacou and possibly Kalo, and is not expected to make major changes to the team that booked their semi-final ticket.
On Monday, second-placed AEK are at home to Omonia with the Larnaca side favourites to take the three points.
With no injury worries and coupled with the return of their talismanic midfielder Juan Tomas to full fitness following his near five month lay-off, coach Imanol Idiakez has a plethora of options for his first eleven.
On the other hand, Omonia coach Akis Ioakim will yet again have to juggle around his defence as both Carlitos and Arnasson remain sidelined while his makeshift central defender of last week Katelaris has been added to the injury list.
Despite winning their last three games, Doxa Katokopias are still four points from safety and anything other than a win against Ermis Aradippou will be disastrous.
Nea Salamina players were booed off the pitch last week when they to Karmiotissa and they need to get a result against Aris to restore some pride.
In the final game Karmiotissa take on one of the stronger teams of the bottom half, Ethnikos Achnas with any result possible.
Saturday: AEL vs Apollon (7pm), Nea Salamina vs Aris (5pm)
Sunday: Anorthosis vs Apoel (6pm), Karmiotissa vs Ethnikos (4pm), Doxa Katokopias vs Ermis Aradippou (5pm)
Monday: AEK vs Omonia (7pm)
(Relegation group games in italics)