Champions Olympiacos FC will look to pick up where they left off against AEK Athens FC on Sunday with the Legend very much the favourites to win their 38th title as the new Greek season begins.
Olympiacos and AEK last met in the final of the Greek Cup in an epic contest. The sides drew 3-3 over 90 minutes, and then 4-4 after extra time before the game was settled in the champions' favour with a 15-14 penalty shoot-out success. Much has changed since then for both teams, but new coach Temuri Ketsbaia will be well aware that – for the majority of supporters – Olympiacos are head and shoulders above the rest.
Two star signings over the summer, Swedish central defener Olof Mellberg and Italian attacking midfielder Enzo Maresca, have further strengthened an already impressive Olympiacos side. Furthermore, they are already into the swing of things in Europe, having beaten FC Sheriff 2-0 away in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off tie, leaving them within a whisker of the group stage.
AEK can only dream of such stability. With Sotirios Kyrgiakos having agreed a move to Liverpool FC this week, Dušan Bajević's side surprisingly found themselves a man down as they headed for Romania on Tuesday to meet SC Vaslui, bidding for a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage. Things did not go to plan, and after losing 2-1, they have precious little time to replace their star defender.
Panathinaikos FC are also struggling on the continental stage, as they are 3-2 down following the home leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off against Club Atlético de Madrid. Coach Henk ten Cate has said many times that winning the league title that has eluded them since 2004 is the Greens' main priority for 2009/10. However, having signed French striker Djibril Cissé, UEFA EURO 2004™ winner Kostas Katsouranis from SL Benfica and Sebastián Leto – who spent last season on loan at Olympiacos – from Liverpool FC, a place at Europe's top table would have certainly been a major aim. They kick off their season on Saturday, meeting Ergotelis FC in Crete.
PAOK FC will look to emulate their achievements of last season, when they ended the regular campaign second, dipping to third after the play-offs. However, they can expect more competition from local rivals Aris Thessaloniki FC and Iraklis FC, who have both made impressive summer signings. A more egalitarian split of TV rights money has also seen some smaller clubs bag big names: hence Croatia's Boško Balaban has joined Panionios GSS, while Latvian striker Maris Verpakovskis joined Ergotelis. Olympiacos, however, are unlikely to be quaking in their boots just yet.
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