Apollon Limassol will have more than just bragging rights at stake when they face derby rivals AEL in the big game on Sunday, as they trail leaders APOEL by four points in the title race.
Sofronis Avgoustis’ side clinched a massive 1-0 win over current champions APOEL last week, but know that there is still plenty of work to do – starting with the game against hated rivals AEL. Thomas Christiansen’s APOEL host Anorthosis Famagusta in the earlier kick-off and know that a victory will really heap the pressure on Apollon.
AEK Larnaca, who are one point behind Apollon in third and only five points behind APOEL, laboured to a 1-0 win over Anorthosis last week, but know that they will need to improve if they are to beat Omonia at the GSP Stadium on Saturday.
But most eyes will be firmly fixed on the big derby at the Tsirio Stadium, where both teams cannot afford to drop any points with five games left to go in the end-of-season playoffs.
Bruno Baltazar’s AEL may be out of contention in terms of the league title race, but last week’s defeat at Omonia means that they run the risk of missing out on Europe and a place in the Europa League qualifiers in the summer.
They are currently in fourth place and one point ahead of fifth-place Omonia, who are slowly gaining momentum with their league form and in particular with the resurgent Demetris Christofi in blistering form of late.
AEL will be without main striker Mika Arruabarrena who was controversially sent off in their midweek draw against APOEL in the Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup, which saw the Limassol club exit the competition at the quarter-final stage on the away goal rule.
Apollon, meanwhile, are expected to be without Abraham Gneki Guie who will most likely miss the remainder of the season after doctors discovered a heart defect, which will mean the French striker will need, more tests before a definitive conclusion can be made with regards to the remainder of his career.
Miguel Bedoya is also unavailable, as is Angelis Angeli, while Avgoustis is sweating on the fitness of Brazilian playmaker Alex da Silva. Polish forward Arkadiusz Piech will be serving a yellow card suspension.
APOEL will be seeking to stretch their lead at the top – at least until the Limassol derby is finished – against Anorthosis, and Christiansen faces a number of crucial absentees, including George Efrem (injured), Stathis Aloneftis (injured) and Giorgos Merkis (injured).
Vander will also be absent after his sending off in midweek, while Nuno Morais and Nicholas Ioannou will be serving yellow card suspensions.
Christiansen does, however, welcome back Vinicius who is back after a two-month injury lay-off.
In the end-of-season relegation group, Doxa Katokopia will be desperately seeking all three points as they visit Ermis Aradippou. The refugee club are currently trailing Aris and Karmiotissa by five points with five games left to go.
In the other relegation battles, Ethnikos host Karmiotissa and Aris take on Nea Salamina.