The Cyprus football championship moves into the final stretch as it enters the second and final round of the playoffs stage with nothing yet decided. With just two points separating the top two teams, APOEL and AEK, it is highly likely that the championship may go down to the wire, while the same margin separates three teams Omonia, Apollon and Anorthosis for the two European spots.
In the relegation scrap Ethnikos is still favourite for the drop but a win this weekend against AEL and favourable results elsewhere will suddenly give them a fighting chance for top flight survival.
The most intriguing tie of the weekend is the one between fourth placed Apollon and AEK at the Tsireion stadium in Limassol.
Apollon’s European ambitions received a blow last week when they lost at home to their nearest rivals, Omonia, and know that they cannot afford to lose a second consecutive home game.
Coach Pedro Emmanuel will be deprived of the services of the injured Makrides with tough tackling Argentinian Sachetti the likely replacement. Maglica is back from suspension and along with Guie Guie will spearhead Apollon’s frontline.
In his pre-game press conference AEK’s Danish coach Thomas Christiansen stressed the importance of the game and the threat posed by their opponents especially following their defeat of last week.
AEK will be without the injured Tete and Murillo with Englezou and Mosjov expected to replace them in the starting line-up.
Anorthosis have improved, especially defensively, since Cypriot coach Larkou took over a few weeks ago and a close game is expected against Omonia.
Nuhu and Orlandi are suspended for the game but Larkou has a number of able replacements for both absentees.
Omonia have not lost away to Anorthosis in the playoff stage since 2008, the year playoffs were introduced, and given their current form they can extend this impressive record for yet another year.
Such are the expectations that their supporters exhausted all available tickets as soon as they were made available.
Leaders APOEL are expected to return to winning ways in front of their home crowd following two draws against Nea Salamina.
Any other result than a home will be considered a major upset especially as Nea Salamina are without a point in five playoff games so far.
Ethnikos Achnas are up against the bottom group leaders AEL in what should be their toughest game of the round.
However Ethnikos have shown during the regular season, that on their day, they can compete even against teams that are challenging for European places.
Paphos FC, the team just above them, face a tricky away tie away to Doxa with any outcome possible.
The last game of the bottom group is between Aris and Ermis with both teams seemingly safe from any relegation danger.
All games for the championship group will be played on Saturday at 18.00 with the relegation group matches set for Sunday at 16.00.