APOEL approach day of judgement

by John Leonidou, Nicosia
published: Friday, 04 January 2008, 13:47
Cypriot champions APOEL FC's hopes of retaining their title could collapse should they fail to beat leaders Anorthosis Famagusta FC at home on Saturday night.

Cypriot champions APOEL FC's hopes of retaining their title could collapse should they fail to beat undefeated leaders Anorthosis Famagusta FC on Saturday evening.

Tough times
Second-placed APOEL trail Anorthosis by six points and will need to improve on their disappointing away form if they are to keep their title hopes alive. Coach Marinos Ouzounides's summer signings have struggled to gel and the arrivals of Brazilian strikers Marco Tavares and Zé Carlos have not brought the glut of goals envisaged. With APOEL misfiring up front, the champions have had to rely heavily on 34-year-old Greek forward Nikos Machlas to get the goals.

New faces
Even the much-anticipated signing of defender Nuno Morais from Chelsea FC proved unsuccessful and the Portuguese player now looks likely to return to his homeland. Tavares, meanwhile, could soon be sent out on loan. Another big signing, 35-year-old Brazilian Emerson and his compatriot Rubens Torres in midfield have also struggled to settle.

Anorthosis in form
High-flying Anorthosis have had no such trouble as they close in on a 13th title with Georgian coach Temuri Ketsbaia spoilt for choice in attack. The summer capture of bustling Polish striker Łukasz Sosin from Apollon Limassol FC has already paid dividends as has the arrival of Milan Belić from Ethnikos Achnas FC to complement William Boaventura and Nikos Froussos up front.

Ketsbaia heroics
Anorthosis have not won the title since 2005 when a 3-2 victory against APOEL late in the season swung the momentum their way. Ketsbaia, who was player-manager at the time, scored a hat-trick that day, including his side's last-minute winner. He will be looking for Anorthosis to produce a repeat performance on Saturday and goalkeeper Arian Beqaj is confident his side will oblige. "It's a game which will obviously not give us the title but victory would certainly give us a massive boost for the remainder of the season," he said.

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