By Iacovos Constantinou
The Cyprus football championship resumes this weekend following the Easter break with the last six ties of the first round of the playoffs.
All but one of the six teams in each group have something to play for, be it the championship or a European position in the top group, or first division survival for the bottom group.
Apollon travel to Nicosia to face Omonia with a number of key players unavailable either through injury or suspension.
Dutch coach Ton Caanen, who took charge of Apollon less than two weeks ago following the dismissal of Ioan Andone, will take his depleted side to Nicosia to face Omonia in the most important game of the top group.
Merkis, Hamdani, Papoulis and Sangoy are all suspended while Gullon and Stylianou join Adrande and Vassiliou on the injury list.
Apollon need to bounce back from their poor showing against Anorthosis just before the break knowing that they cannot afford to drop any more points with second-placed APOEL just a point behind.
Omonia, currently in fourth place, and with little chance of progressing to the final of the Cup, know that only the league can offer them a European ticket next season. The Nicosia team has not tasted victory on home turf since February 1, when they hit four past Doxa Katokopias.
Coach Kaiafas has all but one (Rubio) of his players available for selection.
Anorthosis, who surprised a few with the ease with which they overcame Apollon, are at home to in-form AEK Larnaca with the home team desperate for the points that will keep them in the hunt for third place.
Calvo and Seran are both out while coach Paous will give Laifis and Ende late fitness tests.
AEK will be without their star players Vander and Ortiz, both through suspension, but the good news for the Larnaca team is that their captain Murillo has shrugged off his injury and will be available for selection.
AEK, just three points off the top, want to maintain the pressure on the top two but also maintain the two-point cushion from the team immediately below them.
In the third game of the top group, defending champions APOEL are at home to Ermis, who over the past 12 months have become somewhat of a bogey team for them.
Ermis however have nothing to play for and given that a number of players have already packed their bags and begun their summer holidays, APOEL should be able to take all three points despite missing a number of players through suspension.
Coach Fink will probably give Vinicius a first start since December with keeper Pardo also expected to return to the starting eleven following injury.
In the bottom group, Othellos are at home to Ayia Napa and anything other than a win for the home side will probably signal the end of their first division stay.
Ethnikos Achnas lead Doxa by six points and even a draw can prove sufficient while Nea Salamina take on AEL.
Salamina should be able to take all three points and ensure their first division stay, especially as AEL are expected to field a second-string side in order to rest key plays for their Cup semi-final second leg against AEK next Wednesday.
Saturday, April 18th: Omonia vs Apollon, Anorthosis vs AEK (16.00)
Sunday, April 19th: Nea Salamina vs AEL, Ethnikos vs Doxa, Othellos vs Ayia Napa (16.00) APOEL vs Ermis (16.30)