Two rounds to go before the end of this years football marathon and it’s almost certain that it will go down to the wire.
Incumbent champions Apoel lead second placed Apollon by a single point and they need six points from their remaining two games against Ael and Anorthosis to clinch the title for the sixth consecutive year.
Apollon, who took turns in first place for most of the season with Apoel, and in the final third of the season were tagged as hot favourite for the title, can only hope for a slip by their fellow title challengers if they are to win their fourth championship title after a 12 year barren spell.
Apoel’s first hurdle is against Ael at the Tsireion in Limassol, a place that has not been a happy hunting ground for the Nicosia outfit in recent years. In their last twelve visits to the Tsireion they managed six (mostly narrow) wins and suffered three losses.
The problems for Apoel are compounded by the fact that they will be deprived of the services of their top scorer, Igor de Camargo who is suspended, and unarguably the league’s best defender in Carlao, who will miss the last two games through injury.
However their manager Bruno Baltazar, who up until a few weeks ago coached Ael, has an otherwise clean bill of health and with the depth in squad that Apoel have he should be able to plug the holes left by the two.
At the back, Baltazar will probably go for tough tackling defender Giorgos Merkis while upfront Mikael Pote is expected to be given the nod.
Ael, following last weeks defeat against AEK, have lost all hope for a European finish and it remains to be seen if their coach Dušan Kerkez will field his strongest possible side or experiment with fringe players.
Dossa Junior is the only player that is ruled out of the game.
Demetris Mashias was selected by the Cyprus Football Association to officiate the game. His appointment raised a few eyebrows as he was in charge of two ill-fated games between the two sides in the recent past.
One, a title decider that was abandoned and replayed and the other, earlier this season,finished with a couple of hours delay, both due to crowd violence.
Cup finalists Apollon and AEK clash 24 hours later, again at the Tsireion.
Apollon will want to keep their title hopes alive until the very last game even if Apoel defeat Ael on Saturday.
On the other hand AEK’s Imanol Idiakez may want to rest a few players in view of the Cup Final in 10 days time.
Saturday: AEL v Apoel (7.00), Alki v Doxa & Pafos FC v Olympiakos both at 5.00
Sunday: Apollon v AEK (7.00), Anorthosis v Omonia (6.00), Ermis v Salamina (7.00)