What: Greek Super League
Who: Panathinaikos (2nd; 14 points) vs Olympiacos (1st; 18 points)
When: Saturday, 30th October 2010, at 17:30 UK Time
Where: Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece

Nioplias’ Last Stand?

Panathinaikos’ 5-0 win over minnows Kozani in the Greek Cup on Wednesday may have raised spirits a bit in the team’s camp; however the pressure will certainly be on when the most famous derby in Greece takes place. Four points behind their bitter rivals Olympiacos thanks to last weekend’s derby defeat to AEK Athens, and having made poor start to their Champions League campaign, last season’s double-winners Panathinaikos are in dire need of a derby win to turn their campaign around.

The pressure on the club this season appears to be greater than ever and this could explain manager Nikos Nioplias’ U-turn earlier this month when he quit the team after a 4-1 victory over Ergotelis, only to be convinced to stay by club president Nikolas Pateras. Criticism of his managerial abilities was the main factor the former Greek international gave as his reason for leaving and though he remains with the Prasini it is clear that this weekend’s match is crucial for him and the club. It remains to be seen whether Panathinaikos can cope with their presence on three fronts (Greek Super League, Greek Cup, Champions League).

Measuring Stick For The Reds

While Panathinaikos are looking to bounce back after a shaky start to the season, Olympiacos are in fine form at the moment. Ernesto Valverde’s second stint in charge of the Piraeus giants has seen the club produce results and attractive football. Though Olympiacos offloaded 15 players and brought on nearly as many in the summer, the team have gelled nicely and after an opening weekend defeat to Iraklis, have won six matches on the trot and established a lead at the top of the table.

There is excitement amongst the club’s support that Valverde is in the process of producing a special team. New signings such as Albert Riera, Ariel Ibagaza, Kevin Miralles, and David Fuster plus the development of teenage star Ioannis Fetfatzidis have all helped change the fortunes of a side that struggled last season and finished fifth after the league playoffs. For all their early season success, the real crash test for this new-look side will come against Panathinaikos. Victory could propel Olympiacos to a memorable season, while defeat will show they still have much to prove.


Recent form

Panathinaikos 0-0 Rubin Kazan (20/10; Champions League)
AEK 1-0 Panathinaikos (24/10; Greek Super League)
Kozani 0-5 Panathinaikos (27/10; Greek Cup)

Olympiacos 3-1 Olympiakos Volou (2/10; Greek Super League)
Xanthi 0-3 Olympiacos (16/10; Greek Super League)
Olympiacos 1-0 Aris (24/10; Greek Super League)

Key absences

Panathinaikos: Sotiris Ninis; Sebastian Leto

Olympiacos: Nikos Papadopoulos; Marko Pantelic

Players to watch

Panathinaikos – Djibril Cisse: The French striker has enjoyed a renaissance in Greece; his form last season (23 goals) bringing him back into the French national team fold. This season he has continued where he left off with five league goals to his name already. Cisse’s pace and all around movement can be a handful for opposing backlines and he will hope to grab his first ever goal against Olympiacos in this derby.

Olympiacos – Albert Riera: The club’s most expensive ever signing; Riera has made a positive start to his Olympiacos career chipping in with three goals thus far. The Spanish winger’s trickery and quality going forward have seen Olympiacos finally find a replacement for legendary left winger Predrag Djordjevic. Riera chose number 77 to wear in tribute to the club’s Gate 7 hardcore fans and a goal against Panathinaikos would cement cult status for the former Liverpool man.

Match prediction

Derbies that evoke this much passion are usually extremely difficult to predict with form and league standings going out of the window. Panathinaikos have the benefit of home support and will be desperate for the three points now that they find themselves four points off the pace. Meanwhile, Olympiacos currently look to be the more cohesive side and a draw wouldn’t be a bad result for Valverde’s men. Panathinaikos are in the midst of an extremely difficult month for them and Olympiacos should have the edge as the fresher side. Thus, expect a narrow win for the Piraeus side. Panathinaikos 1-2 Olympiacos.