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APOEL prepare for derby showdown with Omonia

APOEL take on bitter rivals Omonia in the big Nicosia derby on Saturday knowing that a win will see them crowned league champions for a record 26th time.

Thomas Christiansen’s men were forced to put their celebrations on hold last weekend-after they were held to a 0-0 draw by second place AEK Larnaca, but will mathematically clinch the title if they beat Akis Ioakim’s Omonia.

APOEL could potentially still be crowned champions for a record-equalling fifth consecutive time if they draw, provided AEK and Apollon fail to win their respective games against AEL and Anorthosis respectively.

APOEL are four points ahead of second-place AEK and five ahead of fifth-place Apollon – whose only realistic chance of silverware this season is in the Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup final on May 24 against APOEL.

They are expected to have both Nuno Morais and Nicholas Ioannou fit and ready for the game, but Lorenzo Ebecilio is likely to miss out with injury.

But for Omonia, the clash is more than just bragging rights or the chance to derail the title challenge of their most hated rival.

Omonia – who have endured a difficult season which has led to the departure of boss John Carver and technical director Nikos Dabizas – need to pull off a minor miracle if they want to secure a top-four finish and play Europa League football in the summer.

Omonia’s injury list includes Marios Demetriou and Theodosis Kyprou, while Icelandic defender Kari Arnason is serving a yellow card suspended.

As things stand, Omonia are five points behind fourth-place AEL – who take on Imanon Idiakez’s AEK, who have not yet given up on the league title.

APOEL and Omonia are expecting a full house at the GSP Stadium for the game. Ticket prices have also been reduced, while police security will be very tight during the game.

AEL took a giant step towards clinching a top-four finish and Europa League football this summer after a 2-0 win over Anorthosis on Monday night.

Both goals were scored by Ismael Sassi – who struck in each half – while he also won a penalty which Mikael Arrubarrena sent over Giorgos Papadopoulos’ crossbar.

Meanwhile, there is also plenty of action in the other end-of-season playoff group, where Doxa Katokopia and Karmiotissa are locked in a battle for survival.

Doxa’s 2-1 win over Karmiotissa in Larnaca last weekend means the two sides are level on points, although Doxa are above them on goal difference.

Loucas Hadjiloucas’ side visit Ethnikos Achnas on Sunday at the same time Karmiotissa take on Nea Salamina at the Ammochostos Stadium.

“The way the group is set up, anything is possible,” commented Doxa chairman Nicos Constantinou. “The situation is very delicate and we need to be vigilant. But at the end of the day, everything depends on us with regards to the next two games.”

Ethnikos Achnas, Ermis Aradippou and Nea Salamina have mathematically secured their status in the top division next season, although Aris Limassol – who are four points above the drop zone – are still not home free.

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