Four rounds before the end of the championship and leaders Apoel face probably their toughest game against AEK, while second-placed Apollon also have a difficult match against fellow Limassolians AEL.
Apoel will be hoping that it will be seventh time lucky against AEK as the Larnaca team remains one of only two sides the champions have not defeated yet this season, the other being Pafos FC.
In six contests so far this season the champions lost once and drew the other five over the 90 minutes.
The Arena Stadium has never been a happy hunting ground for Apoel as they have won just once there in seven visits. Apoel spokesman Nectarios Petevinos pointed out that his team had played the better football in their home encounters with AEK and should have won but “at the Arena stadium things are always much more difficult.
“If we do take the three points we shall be very close to retaining the championship for the seventh consecutive year,” he concluded.
Apoel’s Italian coach Paolo Trammezani has an almost full squad to choose from with Savvas Gentzoglou the only player who will probably not make the squad through injury.
His counterpart at AEK, Imanol Idiakez, has a few more injury concerns to contend with as Hector Hevel and Igor Silva are ruled out while his two recognised central defenders Danjel Mojsov and skipper David Catala will have to pass a late fitness test with Catala having the better chance of featuring in the game.
“We know it’s difficult to beat the top side in the league but we want to win this game for our fans,” said Idiakez. “The winner will be decided by which team makes the fewer mistakes.”
By the time AEK and Apoel take to the field the result between the other championship contender Apollon will be known as the Limassol derby between them and AEL kicks-off a couple of hours earlier.
The two sides also met last Wednesday in a goalless draw in the second leg of the Cyprus Cup semi finals, with AEL going through 2-1 on aggregate.
Clearly deflated from their cup exit, Apollon will have to find a way to pick up the pieces as any result other than a win will almost certainly hand Apoel an unassailable advantage in the race for the title.
Apollon’s season has been blighted by a high number of injuries to key players and last Wednesday another player limped off before the first half was over with Marios Stylianou giving way to Giorgos Vassiliou and joining Papoulis, Kyriacou and Perreira in the treatment room.
Having secured a place in the cup final and European participation for next season, AEL will have no pressure going into this game.
Their coach Dusan Kerkez may rest a few players but whoever is selected to start will try to impress with a place in the cup final team in the back of their minds.
Marko Adamovic and Ivan Schranz, both substitutes on Wednesday, may replace veteran midfielder Alex da Silva and striker Jurado who both worked tirelessly
The final top group fixture between Nea Salamina and Omonia will take place on Monday evening. The game is of little significance other than which team will finish last in the group.
Sunday: Apollon v AEL (17.00), AEK v Apoel (19.00)