The top of the table clash between AEK and Apoel at the Arena stadium on Saturday stands out by a mile for the ninth round of the football championship.
The ‘clash’ really started on Wednesday though, as the two clubs have been embroiled in an angry exchange of announcements on the number of tickets allocated for the visiting fans.
AEK had initially said that they would give Apoel some 1.500 tickets, well above the minimum 10 per cent (of the total) they are obliged to give according to Cyprus Football Association (CFA) rules. However, they also specified that all visiting fans will need to be identified by stadium stewards and the ticket stub with the fans name will be retained by stadium officials.
Apoel referred this to the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection who ruled AEK’s actions were unlawful. On hearing this, AEK rescinded on their initial ticket allotment decision and allocated the minimum required by the CFA rules that amounted to less than 700.
On the footballing side, AEK’s flawless start to the season will be severely tested by second placed Apoel, who have a good record against the Larnaca team. In the last 14 encounters between the two sides Apoel have recorded nine wins with AEK coming out on top on just two occasions.
AEK though have shown a mean streak so far this season under new coach Imanol Idiakez and no longer cave in when under pressure. They have won the majority of their games with relative ease; Nea Salamina has been the only team to put them under any real pressure.
Idiakez has all players at his disposal after influential winger Tete was given the green light after injuring his hand a few days ago.
Apoel’s Danish coach Thomas Christiansen will be given a hostile reception by the home crowd as he returns to face the team he managed successfully for two years for the first time since moving to the Nicosia champions in the summer.
The Dane is still trying to impose his footballing philosophy at Apoel and this has resulted in a number of poor displays most notably their recent home game against Ethnikos where they could have been three down at the break.
Christiansen will be delighted to have his best defender Carlao back from injury and with Spanish fullback Lago reinstated to the starting eleven Apoel’s backline will prove difficult to break down.
Third placed AEL should have an easy evening against the team with the worst defence of the league: AEZ of Zakaki.
Whatever the result in the derby an AEL win will see them close the gap with at least one of the two leading teams.
At the GSP stadium Omonia take on struggling Aris with the Nicosia team expected to bounce back from their draw last week against Nea Salamina.
On the other hand, winless Aris, who had their coach sacked on Monday, have begun their relegation battle very early on in the season and will defend deep in the hope of snatching a point.
In the other games Doxa are at home to Apollon while Ethnikos take on the pleasant surprise of the season Karmiotissa. In the final weekend game, high-flying Ermis Aradippou are at home Nea Salamina with the final match of the round taking place between bottom place Anagennisi Dheryneias and Anorthosis.
Saturday: Omonia vs Aris and Ethnikos vs Karmiotissa at 18.00, AEK vs Apoel at 20.00
Sunday: Doxa vs Apollon at 18.00, AEL vs AEZ and Ermis vs Nea Salamina at 19.00
Monday: Anagennisis Dheryneias vs Anorthosis at 19.00