League leaders APOEL face another stern test of title credentials on Sunday when they visit in-form Ethnikos Achnas who have yet to lose at home this season.
Thomas Christiansen’s side clinched a 2-1 win at Nea Salamina on Wednesday night to march into the next round of the Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup, and are also going strong in the title race as they sit three points above second place AEK.
Last weekend’s 7-0 thrashing of lowly AEZ was another sign that they will be odds-on favourites to reclaim the league crown in May, but Ethnikos have shown that they are a tough nut to crack despite a sluggish start to the season.
Following the arrival of Lithuanian boss Valdas Ivanauskas, Ethnikos have blossomed with the attacking duo of Emilio Zelaya and Nika Kacharava grabbing the attention of some of the bigger clubs on the island.
Ethnikos recently beat Doxa 2-0 to move up to seventh in the league and were also minutes away from knocking Omonia out of the Cup the week before.
Matt Derbyshire had scored in stoppage time as Omonia snatched a 1-1 draw at the Dasaki Stadium, although APOEL will need the victory as AEK and Pambos Christodoulou’s AEL – who also moved into the next round of the Cup this week after eliminating Aris – continue to snap at their heels.
In other games this weekend, John Carver’s Omonia host Nea Salamina, while Sofronis Avgoustis will be seeking yet another win since taking over as boss of Apollon when they visit bottom club Anagennises Derynia, who are still without a win this season.
Second place AEK Larnaca host AEZ on Sunday, while AEL face Aris once again in the Monday night kick-off.
Elsewhere, Anorthosis Famagusta have been an improved side since the return of influential chairman Andreas Panteli, and they will next take on Ermis Aradippou on Saturday.
Two sides in the bottom half of the table – Karmiotissa and Doxa – will meet in a game neither side can afford to lose.
On the move
In transfer news this week, APOEL took French defender Cedric Yambere on loan from Bordeaux until the end of the season, and he joins fellow new recruits, Spanish striker David Barral and Dutch winger Lorenzo Ebecilio – a former player of Ajax and Shakhtar Donetsk.
AEK have signed on Dutch midfielder Hector Hevel and he joins Elvir Maloku at the Larnaca club, while Esmael Sassi – who joined AEL from nearby AEZ – scored on his starting debut in midweek against Aris for his new club. He also arrived earlier in January along with Spanish forward Piti and Spanish winger Blanco.
Omonia have snapped up Dutch midfielder Nicandro Breeveld and he joins Stephane Aziz Ki, while Anorthosis have brought in Greek wingback Demetris Giannoulis on loan from PAOK.
But this wasn’t just about new players coming into Cyprus. Indeed, some players from the island made notable moves abroad.
Earlier this month, APOEL’s Carlao joined Serie A club Torino with the Brazilian’s departure prompting APOEL to parachute in Yambere.
Valentinos Sielis made football history after becoming the first player from Cyprus to sign for a club in South Korea, after agreeing terms with Gangwon.
Doxa Katokopia wingback Stelios Demetriou also raised eyebrows after managing to seal a move to Scotland to join St. Mirren.