Two big clashes take place in Round 21 of the Cyprus football championship this weekend, with new leaders Apoel taking on third-placed AEK while two teams hoping for a European berth next season – AEL and Omonia – face each other in Limassol.
Apoel moved to the top of the table on Wednesday following their narrow but deserved win over AEL and they will be looking to continue their impressive run of results against AEK, one of the teams that often cause problems for the champions. Last year they were unable to beat them in four encounters.
Apoel coach Giorgos Donis has a plethora of players at his disposal with Brazilian striker Guilherme Dellatorre joining Slovenian defender Dzyanis Palyakow and Spanish wingback Emilio Nsue as the team’s latest winter acquisitions in an already quality-packed squad.
Donis was delighted with his players’ commitment and passion against AEL especially as he had a double digit number of players unavailable either through injury or ineligibility.
“I believe that we are now enjoying the fruits of our hard work over the past few months. My players have improved both physically and tactically and the team is peaking at the right moment,” he said a couple of days ago.
AEK, who occupied one of the top two spots almost since the start of the season, have slipped into third and they will be looking to bounce back after faltering in recent weeks.
“We know that it will be a tough game but we shall travel to Nicosia to fight for the three points”, said AEK coach Imanol Idiakez.
He wrapped up his pre-game press conference by saying that “a win against the champions will give us the impetus we need for a strong finish in the final third of the championship.”
Ivan Triscovski and Acoran, who were both doubtful for the game, have overcome niggling injuries and will almost certainly be in the starting line-up.
AEL entertain Omonia at the Tsirion stadium with both sides needing a win to stay in touch with the top four.
Both come into the game after suffering midweek defeats and will be looking to bounce back.
AEL have conceded the least goals so far but their firepower up front has often let them down. They have averaged just over a goal a game and they will be hoping that their new signings Manuel Torres and Juan Roman will give them what they have lacked so far.
After four consecutive wins Ivaylo Petev’s team lost in their first tough test against Apollon.
They already trail AEL by four points and know that anything other than a win will not help their hopes of a European finish.
Second-placed Apollon should have an easy afternoon against struggling Aris as should Anorthosis who are up against Ethnikos Achnas who have all but accepted relegation allowing key players to leave in the past couple of weeks.
Nea Salamina will be gunning for the three points against Pafos FC, something that will help them move closer to safety and push the Pafos team into the danger zone for the first time this season.
In the final weekend game Doxa are at home to Alki while on Monday Ermis Aradippou take on draw specialists Olympiakos.
Saturday: AEL v Omonia (4pm), Doxa v Alki (5pm), Anorthosis v Ethnikos (6pm)
Sunday: Nea Salamina v Pafos FC (3pm), Apoel v AEK (4pm), Aris v Apollon (6pm)