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No room for error as Apollon and AEK meet

Apollon and AEK Larnaca will meet in a game that neither side can afford not to win with champions APOEL threatening to move out of reach in the league title race should they win on Monday night.

The Cypriot league entered the end-of-season playoffs last weekend with current champions and league leaders APOEL emerging the happiest after Thomas Christiansen’s side peeled away from their closest rivals.

This was because APOEL had managed to grind out a 1-0 win at in-form Anorthosis Famagusta, while Apollon and AEK were held to 1-1 draws against AEL and Omonia respectively.

That meant APOEL – who exited the Europa League on Thursday night after 2-0 aggregate loss to Anderlecht – moved five points ahead of second-place Apollon and six in front of third-place AEK with nine games left to go.

Last weekend’s results also means that neither Apollon nor AEK can afford to drop any points with APOEL set to host AEL in the Monday night kick-off.

Hosts Apollon have been unbeaten since Sofronis Avgoustis took over from Pedro Emanuel last year, but needed an injury-time header from Paulo Vinicius to rescue a point against manager-less AEL last weekend.

Their hopes were recently hit by the injury to in-form striker Anton Maglica.

AEK, meanwhile, failed to capitalise on Omonia’s porous defence on Monday night to stay hot on the heels of APOEL. Imanol Idiakez’s men played the latter stages of the second half with an extra man after George Florescu was sent off, while Ivan Trickovski also sent his penalty crashing onto the crossbar.

In other big games on the weekend, Akis Ioakim’s Omonia will be looking to inflict a second defeat on Anorthosis as they bid to move above AEL into the top four. Both sides are in a fierce struggled to clinch fourth place and the final slot in the Europa League qualifiers in the summer.

Anorthosis have been a rejuvenated side since the return of influential chairman Andreas Panteli but a top four finish is looking a highly unlikely prospect for the refugee club following their poor start to the season.

In the relegation group, Aris Limassol will lock horns with Doxa Katokopia in the big clash of Group B. The Limassol club are currently four points above bottom of the group Doxa with nine games left to go. The team finishing bottom of the group will be relegated to the second division.

Aris recently clinched a vital 3-1 win at Nea Salamina, while Doxa grabbed an equally important 2-1 victory at home to an Ermis Aradippou side – that rested a few regular players.

In the other games in the relegation group, Karmiotissa will be seeking to keep their dream of surviving the drop alive as they travel to Ermis – one week after their impressive 5-3 victory over Ethnikos Achnas.

Ethnikos and Nea Salamina will both be seeking to return to winning ways when they meet each other at the Dasaki Stadium on Sunday.

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