The top of the table clash between AEL and leaders Apoel at the Tsierion stadium on Sunday takes centre stage this weekend for round 17 of the football championship.
Third placed Apollon travel to Larnaca to face relegation threatened Ermis Aradippou while Anorthosis and Enosis will meet for second time in four days following their cup clash on Wednesday. Omonia and Alki are at home to Nea Salamina and Pafos FC respectively.
The final game of the round will take place on Monday between Doxa Katokopias and AEK, with coach Imanol Idiakez returning to the Larnaca team after a brief and unsuccessful stint at Real Zaragoza replacing fellow Spaniard Antoni Iraola.
AEL will be looking to overturn a 4 game winless run against Apoel in Limassol and return to the top of the table, a position they held before the champions leapfrogged over them, when they lost to Anorthosis in their last game of 2018.
Ducan Kerkez’s side has impressed with their run so far in the league exceeding even their very own expectations. They have proven to be a very well organised and effective side that is very difficult to break down but who also have players in their ranks that can cause a lot of damage to the opponent when going forward.
In Alex da Silva they have perhaps one of the most talented midfielders in the league while Cypriot striker Andreas Makris, a summer signing from Apoel, has begun to deliver the goods scoring 4 in his last three outings.
The only concern for Kerkez will be the absence of two of his regulars forming his defence, towering central defender Dossa Junior and right back Nils Texeira. Junior is likely to be replaced by their recent winter signing, Slovenian Boris Godal, while the right back berth will go to one of Andre Texeira or Charis Kyriacou.
Jordanian striker Musa Al-Taamari is the only player Apoel’s coach Paolo Tramezzani cannot call upon, as he is on international duty for the Asian’s Cup.
It’s a big blow for Apoel as Al-Taamari has been the key for the Nicosia team’s revival. Against Anorthosis last week they struggled for the first forty five minutes and were somewhat fortunate to claim the three points.
Hungarian Norbert Balogh is the likely player to replace him with their recent January signing Roman Bezjak expected to take a place on the bench. Trammezani is expected to make at least one more change with Carlao returning to the starting eleven in place of Vouros while fit again Tomas de Vincenti may get the nod over Lucas Souza .
Apollon will be favourites to overcome Ermis Aradippou and move closer to at least one if not both of the teams directly above them.
The Limassol side has shown signs of gradually recapturing the form that made them such a joy to watch up until last November last year.
However they will need to be at their best as Ermis is hungry for points as they sit at the wrong end of the table.
Following their cup exit to Apollon last Wednesday, Omonia’s chances of European football look rather bleak and only a win against Nea Salamina can keep their hopes alive.
For their part, Nea Salamina can all but guarantee a top six finish if they can leave Nicosia with the three points.
Saturday: Omonia v Nea Salamina (17.00), Ermis Aradippou v Apollon (19.00)
Sunday: AEL v Apoel (16.00), Alki v Pafos FC (17.00), Anorthosis v Enosis (18.00)
Monday: Doxa Katokopias v AEK (19.00)