Olympiakos vs PAS Giannina: Greek Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg Preview
With the domestic season ending in a matter of weeks, the title wrapped up, European places still being contested for, and relegation battles still being fought at the bottom, the attention now turns to the last four of the Greek Cup, where there is just as much to play for. While PAOK and AEK battle it out in the other semi-final match up, the big one for us Thrylos fans is the return leg against PAS Giannina in Piraeus. The first meaningful fixture for Olympiakos since mathematically retaining the title will be a real tough one as this means so much to both sides going into this game. For the Greek champions, it’s a chance to reach the final and possibly claim a second consecutive domestic double.
For PAS, who have already matched their best performances in Greece's second competition by reaching this stage in 2006/07 and 2009/10, this is a huge opportunity for the club to reach a milestone first ever Greek Cup final. Even with Thrylos leading the tie on away goals it could certainly be turned on its head with the potential for PAS to cause an almighty upset. So with the magic of the Cup in the air, I will be building up to the second leg tie between these two opponents, highlighting briefly the first leg, their performances in the league since the split, any injuries or suspensions, and how Olympiakos, in particular, could set up in their first truly meaningful game for a few weeks.
Previously in the First Leg
Despite boasting a much stronger side on paper, Thrylos seemed to struggle to get into their rhythm throughout the first half while playing in the 3-4-3, allowing PAS to get off some dangerous opportunities early doors. In a rather cagey affair that saw multiple yellow cards dished out on the sub-par pitch of the Zosimades Stadium, PAS was handed a golden chance to put Olympiakos to the sword at the stroke of half time. Ba's hand connected with the ball after a shot cannoned off of the defender in the box, and after consulting VAR the referee awarded a penalty. Centre back Rodrigo Erramuspe calmly put his shot past Jose Sa to make it an unlikely 1-0 lead going into the break.
Upon the restart of the match, Pedro Martins made multiple changes in an attempt to reclaim some dominance into the game. The chances kept on coming to get that crucial away goal but Hassan sadly lacked the quality to put those simple chances away. Rather than protecting their lead, PAS attempted to find a second just before the hour mark as they went through on goal several times, only to be stopped by the Sa.
Eventually, after switching to a back four and introducing El Arabi, the Erythrolefki started to put pressure on their opponent who was attempting to hold onto their lead. After nearly 73 minutes, Kostas Fortounis was found by a pass on the right hand side of the box, crossed the ball in to find Hassan. The Egyptian Zlatan did it the hard way by attempting an overhead kick and magnificently putting the ball past Lodygin to make it 1-1, crucially giving his side the away goal. Both sides continued to exchange chances in the last stages of this game but neither team could find a late winner. The game petered out and despite failing to win the first leg, Thrylos left Ioannina with an away goal and in pole position to reach the Greek Cup final.
Both Teams’ Form Since
Both sides have had rather similar playoff campaigns since they faced each other on the 7th of April as they have, in their way, not got anything left to play for in the League.
Thrylos, four days after travelling to Ioannina to play PAS, returned home to host eternal rivals Panathinaikos in a match that would see them wrap up the league title mathematically with a win. After going behind to a Federico Mecheda penalty, Olympiakos went up a gear in search of an equaliser, which they managed to find on the stroke of half time through that man Hassan.
Pedro Martins’ side came flying out the blocks in the second half and after PAO defender Achilleas Poungouras was sent off, this only intensified the league leaders attack on the ten men of the Prasini. Minutes later Hassan popped up again with his second of the night, making it a 2-1 come back for him and his side. PAO heads dropped, and late on after a corner from the away side was booted long, Bruma found himself almost clean through with an open goal and slotted it home to make it 3-1, giving Olympiakos our 46th title.
The very next week Olympiakos travelled to PAOK with the title well and truly retained. Even with the team having been given a three day rest after achieving their league goal, there was still hope that we would see a team still at peak condition to finish off the rest of the league season. It was evident however that we looked a tad off the pace compared to a PAOK side who were still fighting for a place in Europe next season and hoping to take advantage of the lax concentration of the visitors.
After a sluggish first half, the Thessaloniki side was able to find an early opener through a mistake from Avraam in the box. The veteran defender failed to clear the ball from a corner and talented winger Zivkovic pounced to make it 1-0. After going behind there was a brief period of response from the Piraeus side, but it was all laid to waste when Zivkovic again popped up with his second goal of the game, more or less putting his side back into the driver’s seat. Despite a flurry of late chances from Olympiakos, it was all in vain, and we sadly suffered our second defeat of the domestic season, not terrible as there was nothing to play for, but still disappointing to lose against a rival.
The Greek champions recently returned to winning ways over the last week, first playing Asteras Tripolis in midweek, whose push for European qualification seemed to be all but over. It was a rather unspectacular performance from Thrylos but a nice header from Sokratis was enough to get the 1-0 win and all three points. During the weekend fixtures just gone, AEK travelled to take on Olympiakos with the hope of replicating PAOK and securing a win that would push them a bit closer to securing European football themselves.
The Athenian side, while at times threatening to open the scoring in the first half, did not capitalise on the chances they created. In a slightly improved performance from the Ethryolefki in the second half, we started to see a bit more of the Olympiakos side we were used to watching from a few weeks ago. Eventually, substitute Bruma broke the deadlock in the 50th minute and doubled the lead late on in added time to give Pedro Martins’ men a comfortable 2-0 ahead of this crucial Greek Cup clash.
Since the beginning of the relegation playoffs PAS, like their upcoming opponent, have not had a huge amount to play for other than to prepare for the semi-final. Their form has dipped a tad with no real worry of relegation and no way of pushing for a European place with the league split in two, so they have rather lapsed in recent weeks.
After the impressive performance at home against Olympiakos, PAS hosted Lamia who at the time was attempting to pull as far away from the bottom two as possible. PAS did take the lead early in that game through Fabricio Brener, but Lamia was able to make a second-half come back, first equalising two minutes after the restart through Adam Tzanetopoulos before Milos Deletic made it 1-2 to the away side in the latter stages of normal time.
After that disappointing result, PAS travelled to relegation group leaders Volos, who also had nothing else to play for. An early lead from the home side was cancelled out just before the 30 minute mark courtesy of Angelos Liasos and both sides played out the rest of the match which ended as a 1-1 draw.
Over the weekend Panetolikos, who were also looking to put pressure on the teams below them and push to stay up, were Giannina's latest opponent. In a game with chances few and far between it was the away side that came out on top with a 20th minute winner from Helder Barbosa, giving his side hope at pulling away from the drop, and PAS to continue their winless run.
Injuries, Formation and Prediction
At the time of writing there does not seem to be anything we don't already know with regards to injuries for Olympiakos. Avraam, who came off injured against Asteras will still be unavailable for this game and could be out for the rest of the season. Ousseynou Ba is also unavailable with a back injury that has been cropping up over the last couple of months and is missing from the squad. As far as I am aware PAS does not have any notable injuries to their squad.
To finish, I will give my starting XI prediction and scoreline. The formation is almost a formality at this point so I am going to confidently say we will set up in a 3-4-3. Jose Sa, after having a bit of a break from the last couple of games, will retake his spot in goal from Kristinsson, who has also been left out of the squad entirely. The centre back trio, with other options unavailable, will be Ruben Semedo, Sokratis, and Jose Holebas, who has been rolling back the years in the left side of the defence. This would mean on the left wing back role, Oleg Reabciuk will also be given the nod and on the right wing back position, which is a little bit more up for debate, I still think Tasos Androutsos will start over Kenny Lala. Mady Camara and Yann M'Vila will make for a very industrious midfield two. The two wingers are where it would be a tough call. Kostas Fortounis has not been at his best in recent weeks, but can still offer a lot when starting, so I believe he will be played over Giorgos Masouras. Bruma will be on the opposite flank after his impressive weekend performance. Upfront there is no competition; Youssef El Arabi will start as the striker, over the sometimes brilliant but limited Ahmed Hassan, and the hardworking Hugo Cuypers.
Prediction wise, Thrylos have struggled to score against PAS in all competitions this season with both sides unable to score against each other more than once per game. If PAS were against a different team I would love them to reach the final as a proper underdog, but this is against our beloved Olympiakos, and I do think that we will have enough to overcome them. I am going to say we do score more than once this time around and the Greek champions win 2-0 and book our place in the Greek Cup final, in the hunt for another domestic double.