By Iacovos Constantinou
THE second round of the playoff stage kicks-off on Saturday with leaders APOEL and AEL expected to get through their home ties unscathed while in the relegation scramble the Ethnikos v Doxa game may prove decisive on which team gets relegated.
APOEL, buoyed by their midweek thrashing of AEL that sent them to the top of the table, take on Cup finalists Ermis Aradippou at the GSP.
Vinicius and Antoniades are both available having served their one match suspension while Tomas de Vincenti is also expected to be recalled to the starting eleven.
Despite having their sights set on the Cup final next month Ermis are a team that cannot be taken lightly as Omonia discovered last Wednesday. Trailing 3-1 with ten minutes to go the team from Aradippou clawed its way back into the game and snatched a draw.
AEL coach Petev was disappointed by his team’s poor finishing last week and is certain to ring the changes ahead of their game against Anorthosis. Oriol and Kalunderovic will probably replace Edmar and Idabdelhay while there may be changes at the back as well. Anorthosis have not been playing as badly as their recent poor run suggests and I believe that if they can get through the first third of the game without conceding they may prove a handful for the Limassol team.
Despite a five-point gap to the top, Apollon have not given up hope of a top-two finish. First however they will have to overcome Omonia who have been fluent in attack but leaky in defence. An open and entertaining game is expected.
Doxa Katokopias, who for most of the regular season were in a comfortable mid-table position, know that only a win against fellow strugglers Ethnikos Achnas will push them out of the drop zone. It is a six-point game for both teams.
Aris will face one of their sternest tests away to AEK Larnaca but their three point cushion from relegation will allow them to settle for a point as well. A few weeks back Aris was considered favourite for the drop but Dutch coach Ton Caanen has managed to gradually steer them to (relative) safety.
Group B leaders Nea Salamina should have few problems in overcoming AEK Kouklion who are almost certain to be one of the two teams to join Paralimni and Alki in the second division.
Saturday, April 26th : AEL v Anorthosis, APOEL v Ermis Aradippou (both at 18.00)
Sunday, April 27th: Omonia v Apollon (18.00), AEK Larnaca v Aris, Doxa v Ethnikos Achnas, Nea Salamina v AEK Kouklion (all group B games at 17.00)