Olympiakos vs Asteras Tripolis Build Up
With the Greek Cup semifinal just a week away, the pre-pre-season continues for Olympiakos as they return to Piraeus to host 6th place Asteras Tripolis in a game. Despite this game maybe not meaning a huge amount to either side, with Thrylos already champions and the Arcadians unlikely to obtain European football for next season, it should still be a reasonably interesting fixture to tune in to. There is hope from fans of the Erythrolefki that we might see some more rotation than we witnessed on the weekend against PAOK, with a couple of youth players on the bench, Marios Vrousai and Kenny Lala getting a runout, and trying out a the 3-4-3 with players who are capable of playing in that formation(or just resort to something familiar for the sake of purely trying out players). Either way, let’s get into this build up.
How Both Sides Performed this Weekend
PAOK 2-0 Olympiakos
As newly crowned champions, Olympiakos travelled to Thessaloniki and Toumba to face PAOK, who still have a lot to play for as they attempt to finish the season in a European place. Pedro Martins, upon retaining the league title, gave his players three days off with this match just around the corner and sadly, it seemed to show. Despite not looking sluggish as such, Thrylos did look a tad off the pace against a PAOK side that was looking to get a bit of bragging rights over us and take advantage of our lack of urgency.
The 3-4-3, while I am in support of this, may not have been the right choice for this game as we did not have the personnel able to play competently in this style. Avraam is a fantastic figure for the club and to have in the locker room, but he got found out in this game. Yes, he played to rest other Ba and Semedo, who weren't in the squad due to injury, but in a system that he is not familiar with. There also seemed to be a little lack of creativity; with no Mady Camara or Fortounis starting nothing seemed to be properly testing the PAOK defence.
After going into half time at 0-0, PAOK started the game the brighter of the two teams and eventually found an opener through Zivkovic. Avraam failed to clear the ball from a corner and the Serbian winger pounced on that mistake and made it 1-0 to the home side. Olympiakos failed to properly respond to going behind, which gave PAOK the chance to double their lead just past the hour mark and it was Zivkovic again who scored his second. Despite bringing on Fortounis and Camara and the flurry of chances towards the end of the game, Thrylos failed to pull one back and the match ended 2-0 to our northern rivals. While it is never nice to lose in a derby, it is not the end of the world and it ultimately does not matter.
AEK 3-1 Asteras
Asteras travelled to Athens and an AEK side who was starting to find some form. Even after a spirited first half performance, they found themselves behind a few minutes before half time as talented midfielder Kostas Galanopoulos broke the deadlock. The Arcadians responded quickly however a couple of minutes later through Adrian Riera. The second half saw the Kitrinomavri take the game by the scruff of the neck in an attempt to claim a second consecutive win, with the away side hanging on to the draw for dear life. Late on, AEK finally broke through a suborn Asteras to make it 2-1 through Helder Lopes, who had a fantastic game at left back. The match was put to bed with minutes remaining after sub Christos Albanis found a third and the match ended 3-1 to AEK.
Possible Inclusions to the XI, Injuries and Predictions
As I entailed at the beginning of this blog, I imagine we will see more of a rotated side going into this game at home. It has already been reported that Marios Vrousai will start and despite the excellence of Thanasis Androutsos, I would also hope that Kenny Lala gets a run out, with no pressure on him now that the season is all but over, and embed him further into how we play. As we have expressed on numerous occasions on the podcast it would also be nice to see the likes of Vasilis Sourlis, who could benefit from playing in games like this where the pressure is off and he can just show Martins what he is capable of.
With regards to the formation, I imagine it will be 3-4-3 again as we have said a lot that this is the blueprint for next season when we will attempt to retain the title for the third time and reach a more latter stage of a European competition. There is also the possibility if Pedro Martins chooses to start Hugo Cuypers for the 4-4-2 with El Arabi, as this is a setup the Portuguese coach favours and has used in both the league and the cup this season.
Finally, a quick look at any unavailable players through injury. Both Ba and Semedo at the time of writing are still nursing minor back and muscle problems, respectively. Hassan too is out with a muscle injury which was why he missed the PAOK game. As there is only the Cup tie to compete for now, none of these players need to be rushed back before they are fully fit and hopefully, with the personnel at our disposal, this can be an entertaining game regardless. Of course, I would still like to see us bounce back with a win and I believe that is what will happen, with Thrylos winning 2-0 against a spirited Asteras team.