Cyprus Mail
Cyprus football

Teams ready for battle as playoffs begin

In the top group, the title battle appears to be a two-horse race as APOEL and AEK are well clear of their nearest rivals

THE first round of the playoffs begin this weekend in Cyprus with 12 of the 14 first division teams involved.

The sides are divided into two groups, with the top six challenging for the league title and European qualification places, and the bottom group fighting to avoid the last place that leads to the second division, with Ayia Napa and Enosis already relegated.

With 30 points to play for, a lot can change especially in the bottom group as only seven points separate the first from the last team.

In the top group however, the title battle appears to be a two-horse race as APOEL and AEK are nine and ten points clear of their nearest rivals.

The remaining ‘European’ positions are up for grabs with Anorthosis, Apollon and Omonia separated by just three points.

Reigning champions APOEL kick-off away to Nea Salamina, a team they have beaten four time this season in the league and cup, scoring 19 goals in the process.
APOEL will be without the suspended Merkis and Alexandrou and the injured Cavenaghi for the game but they should prove too strong for a Salamina side that faded sharply towards the end of the regular season, and only secured sixth spot on the final day.

Second-placed AEK take on Apollon at the GSZ stadium in Larnaca just a week after trouncing them 6-1.
Englezou has joined Moisov on the injury list but coach Thomas Christiansen has more than able replacements for both and expects his team to get off to a winning start.

Dark clouds have been gathering over the Apollon camp following two defeats in a matter of days that all but ended their championship hopes.
Their coach Pedro Emmanuel has come under immense pressure especially for his team selections and only a win can earn him a temporary respite.

In the last top-tier game, Omonia entertain Anorthosis at the GSP and a win for the Nicosia team may see them climb into third place, something that looked impossible a few weeks ago.
Anorthosis bounced back from two consecutive losses to defeat Enosis last Wednesday but they will need to improve further if they are to get anything out of their visit to Nicosia.

In the bottom group, Ethnikos and Ermis need to win their games against AEL and Aris respectively to stay in touch with Paphos FC, who hold a three-point advantage.

Greek coach Apostolos Makrides has done wonders at Paphos and a win against Doxa will be their third in a row.

Group A (all at 18.00)
Saturday: Nea Salamina (33) v APOEL (62)
Sunday: AEK (61) v Apollon (49), Omonia (49) v Anorthosis (52)

Group B (all at 16.00)
Sunday: Ermis (24) v Aris (31), AEL (31) v Ethnikos (24), Paphos FC (27) v Doxa (30)
(Points in brackets)


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