By Iacovos Constantinou
Dust permitting, the Cyprus football championship resumes this weekend with two games standing out, as leaders AEK and APOEL clash in Larnaca, while Apollon take on AEL in the local Limassol derby.
The Cyprus Football Association (CFA) has already announced that if, three to four hours before a game, dust levels in the town where the game will be played, exceed 200 microgrammes per cubic metre, then the match will be put back by 24 hours.
AEK, who finished second last season, have shown in their opening games that they will be a force to be reckoned with again despite losing one of their star players of last year, Vander to APOEL, their opponents on Saturday.
They have brought in prolific Brazilian striker Andre Alves, who along with other summer signings, like the experienced midfielder Laban and Polish star Adam Marciniak, can push AEK towards the title.
Their shrewd coach Tomas Christiansen is sweating on the fitness of his first choice keeper Tonio and striker Nestoras Mitides who injured himself while on international duty with Cyprus last Sunday.
Temur Ketsbaia, APOEL’s new coach, faces his first real test against a team that frequently pose problems for the champions.
Carlao, Efrem and Mario Sergio are all back in contention for a starting berth after recovering from injuries as is star signing Cavenaghi who used the international break to improve his fitness.
On Sunday, Apollon meet Limassol rivals AEL, in a game they dare not lose. Their coach Pedro Emmanuel is feeling the pressure after his team failed to impress in their opening two games, especially the second, where they dropped two points at Paralimni.
He is expected to ring the changes with striker Thuram pushing for a start while Lopez is expected to replace Stylianou at right back. Five players, da Silva, Sachetti, Stojanovic, Gullon and Rosa are vying for three places in midfield.
Even though AEL have drastically reduced their budget for the season, their coach Christophorou has still managed to create a well-organised unit that will pose problems to all clubs irrespective of their budgets.
AEL are waiting for news on Airossa and Elefteriou, who both cover at right-back. Should neither be passed fit then youngster Karagounis is expected make his first start.
Shellis is back to full fitness but Christophorou is expected to keep the central pairing of Andrande and Sambou.
Anorthosis, only the third team with two wins so far, take on Ethnikos at the Antonis Papadopoulos and are expected to maintain their perfect start.
Andre Paous is not expected to make any changes to the side that defeated Nea Salamina in their last outing.
Ethnikos are a tough, battling side and as they showed in their win over Omonia, they cannot be brushed aside easily.
In the remaining games, Paphos FC will be hoping to record their first point(s) against Aris while two more teams without a point, Ayia Napa and Salamina, clash with each other.
Omonia should bounce back from their loss to Ethnikos when they take on Doxa at the GSP, while on Monday Ermis Aradippou are to home to Paralimni.