Amid the euphoria in the days following the win over Omonia, team doctors dropped a bombshell that wiped the smiles off our faces. Jorge and Colin, two of our centre-backs, would be out injured for a month. That, together with Ilic’s suspension due to the red card he received last Sunday, meant we would go into the game with Olympiakos this week without a reliable central defender. Our fourth choice for the position, the young Economou, has hardly even made the bench this season.
On Friday, however, some unexpectedly good news came through. Colin’s injury was not as serious as it first appeared and he could even be fit to take the field on Sunday. That’s one less headache for Levy, who must have been thinking of reshuffling his whole defensive line-up to find a solution to the riddle. Now it seems there won’t be as many changes. Most likely, captain Skopelitis will partner Colin in defence, with Laban taking the former’s place in midfield, unless Levy dares give Economou his big chance. Another player who will possibly be given a starting berth for the first time is Levy’s compatriot Barak Yitzhaki in attack.
Olympiakos, Nicosia’s third team, has played second fiddle to the capital’s big two for most of its existence. The club had its heyday in the late 60s to early 70s, winning three league titles in six years. Since then, it has mostly been fighting with relegation without always being successful, although its fortunes had revived for a brief period when its chairman was a local tycoon who poured money into the club.
One could say that the Anorthosis ‘revolution’ of the 90s was in a way linked to Olympiakos. Back in 1992, chairman Kikis Constantinou broke the Cypriot transfer record by buying Olympiakos’ forward starlet Dimitris Assiotis (below, standing row, third left) for £150,000, an unheard-of amount back then. It was a clear statement of intent that Anorthosis were ready to buy big and spend big. Many more would follow. Assiotis might have failed to fulfil his huge potential in the end and was released five years later, but fans still remember him fondly for being part of the team that ended 32 years of hurt in 1995, landing us our first league title in the post-1974 era.
Since the beginning of this century, when Olympiakos moved from its old, picturesque GSP stadium to its new, current version, we have had mixed fortunes against them. In the first 6 years we failed to beat them in Nicosia, suffering three straight defeats followed by three straight draws. Since then we have won three times and drawn twice. So history kind of favours us, but the encounters with Nicosia’s minnows have never been straightforward affairs. Do not be fooled by their 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Apoel last Monday. They have only beaten their neighbours once in the last 20 years anyway. Against us, though, they always seem to find an extra gear. Not only that, but they seem to have a pretty decent team this year too. Despite our defensive frailties, however, we have enough quality to overcome this hurdle as well. Last year, Jan Rezek scored this beauty within 5 seconds of the start of the 2nd half to seal a 2-0 victory:
With the Czech international in such a fine form this year, we are hoping for more of the same tonight.