The Famagusta derby between Anorthosis and Nea Salamina is like no other in world football, not in terms of rivalry or passion, but because it’s probably the only one which is not played in the clubs’ own city. With Famagusta occupied by Turkey since 1974, meetings between the two clubs always have an air of melancholy and hardly remind the pre-1974 passionate encounters.
That, of course, also has to do with the lack of competitiveness at these derbies in recent years. Salamina, despite a sizeable following for Cyprus standards, has never enjoyed the success we’ve had. Its best spell coincided with our rise from the ashes in the early 90s, as they won the Cup at the beginning of that decade and finished third twice. Since the beginning of the millennium, however, they’ve become something of a yo-yo club, drifting in and out of the First Division.
What’s more, in the 26 years since ‘Pap’ was built they’ve managed to beat us only once there, and that was way back in 1989. Still, there have been some memorable moments down the years, the most recent one being this brace from Nikos Froussos in May 2005, a win that confirmed us as champions for the first time in five years.
Ex-captain and all-time legend Nikos Nicolaou will face the club with which he made his name for the first time tonight. Nicolaou, who also had a brief two-month spell as our caretaker manager back in 2010, is Salamina’s assistant manager this year. He had been playing for Salamina for 9 years before being bought by Anorthosis in 2001. A number of other players have made the short trip from Salamina’s nearby ground Ammochostos to ‘Pap’. Salamina’s all-time top scorer Pambis Andreou played for Anorthosis for two seasons before heading back to our neighbours, winning the league in both as well as the Cup in 1998 when we did the double. Most notably though, current Anorthosis captain Okkas is the most famous Salamina son that crossed town, becoming one of the most expensive transfers of all time between Cypriot clubs in 1997 at the age of 20.
Apoel may seem to have made an easy meal of Salamina in last week’s 3-0 away win, but our neighbours were unlucky not to be awarded a clear pen when it was still 1-0. They should make a good fight of it tonight. Levy will be happy to have witnessed another miraculous recovery for a second successive week, as centre-back Paulo Jorge –who had been expected to be out injured for two more weeks- has been declared fit to play today. It’s unlikely that the coach will risk to rush him back like he did with Omonia though, a decision that aggravated his injury. Colin and Ilic will probably form the central defensive partnership.
Levy’s most pressing concern must be who to play in defensive midfield in place of the suspended Alexa, with Laban and Ohayon vying for the position, unless Levy opts to start both and keep Skopelitis on the bench. Neither of them is as commanding as the Romanian is but they are better ball players. Hopefully, this will help us control possession, a virtue that we lacked in our previous games despite our wins. In attack, Levy is expected to keep Yitzhaki on the right after his compatriot’s very promising debut against Olympiakos last Sunday. Nothing less than a win and a good performance will do for the ‘Pap’ faithful tonight.