By Iacovos Constantinou
TWO fixtures stand out this week in Cyprus as the top four teams are involved in what could turn out to be crucial six-pointers.
Leaders AEL take on fourth-placed Ermis Aradippou and second-placed Apollonas travel to Nicosia to face APOEL, who trail the Limassol outfit by just one point.
Champions APOEL, who seem to have hit form just when it matters, are in buoyant mood following their midweek win against Anorthosis and the dropping of points from the other main title contenders.
The game against Apollonas is their last in what was a very testing schedule in the new year having to face leaders AEL, in both league and cup, Anorthosis and Ermis, all successfully. Greek coach Donis will be without the injured Pipinis but will be hoping that top scorer Gustavo Manduca will have overcome a niggling injury.
Apollonas, still smarting from their surprise home defeat to Ethnikos Achnas on Thursday, will travel to Nicosia knowing that another defeat will allow APOEL to overtake them into second place. Coach Christoforou, under fire for the first time this season, will restore Papoulis and Robert to the starting 11, but will be without the influential Garcia while Karipidis will face a late fitness test.
AEL entertain Ermis on Monday evening in a game that no one dares lose. AEL coach Ivaylo Petev will have to do without his first choice full-backs, Carlito and Airosa, and midfielder Edmar through injury, while Dede will miss the game though suspension.
Ermis, will be without the injured de Azevedo, but should be able to recall Marco Tagbajumi. The Aradippou side has been the pleasant surprise of the season and seems capable of ‘breaking up’ the hold of the big teams especially for the places that lead to European competitions.
Omonia, who sacked their Spanish coach Lotina on Friday after just 37 days, face a difficult trip to the Ammochostos stadium to face Nea Salamina on Sunday. Nothing but a win will do for the Nicosia giants against a Nea Salamina team that finally recorded their first win of 2014 a few days ago.
Anorthosis travel east to face Paralimni at the Tasos Markou stadium which has proven to be a happy hunting ground for them over the years. Paralimni, last but one in the table, need all three points if they have any chance of avoiding automatic relegation.
In the two Saturday games, AEK Kouklion play hosts to Doxa Katokopias while Aris Limassol travel to Larnaca hoping to take advantage of AEK’s indifferent season.
WEEKEND FIXTURE LIST
Saturday: AEK Kouklion-Doxa Katokopias (17.00) AEK Larnaca-Aris Limassol (18.00)
Sunday: Nea Salamina-Omonia (15.00), Ethnikos Achnas-Alki and APOEL-Apollonas (17.00)
Monday: AEL-Ermis Aradippou (19.00)