With a game remaining in Cyprus before Division A splits for the play-offs, it is the bottom of the league, not the top, that is attracting attention.
'Now is the hour'
Aris Limassol FC will visit Olympiakos Nicosia FC on Saturday knowing that failure to secure three points could mean they join their opponents in Cyprus's second tier next term. A point above the drop zone going into the final round of the regular season, Mihai Stoichiţă's third-bottom team need to better whatever second-bottom Nea Salamis FC do at home to Alki Larnaca FC. "This game basically determines whether or not we stay up," Aris captain George Vasiliou told uefa.com. "There is no other way about it – we have to win because a defeat, along with a Nea Salamis victory, would relegate us. We all believe we deserve to stay in the top flight so now is the time to prove it."
The start of the season, when Aris had such high hopes having signed Cypriot international Yiasoumis Yiasoumi and Portuguese playmaker Paulo Costa, seems far away now. The burden of expectation has proved too great. "Our targets were very high and some of our players have been unable to meet the required standards to reach them," said Vasiliou. "We had quite a bad start to the campaign but luckily things changed with the arrival of Stoichiţă."
With Aris having lost ten of their first 16 matches, the fact they remain in contention is a credit, and with Olympiakos firmly rooted to the foot of the table survival appears theirs for the taking. Nea Salamis will have other ideas, however, as the side spearheaded by in-from Mustapha Bangura look to beat Alki and hope Olympiakos can do them a favour. Fourth-bottom Alki could also go down, but that eventuality is unlikely and they seem destined for the four-team relegation play-offs for clubs finishing between ninth and 12th. With the bottom two automatically demoted, the rest of Division A is split into three groups, with the top four contesting the title.
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