In just a month, the regular season of the Greek Super League will be over.
The Greek Super League undoubtedly has one of the weirdest league systems in Europe. Each team plays a home-and-away match against every other team, leading to a total of 26 matches. Most leagues in Europe do this, but majority have more teams and play 30 or more games. The Premier League, for instance, plays 38 matches. But in the Greek Super League, that happens in just one month. After that, however, it gets interesting.
The teams that finish in the top six in the league play every team again, home-and-away. The teams keep their previous point totals and look to add on in this round, called the Championship Round. The bottom eight teams play each other in a relegation round where the bottom two teams get relegated.
In this article I’ll take a look at the teams who would currently qualify for the Championship Round: six teams vying to win the league with nothing to lose. The team that finishes first will earn a spot in Champions League Qualifiers, and the next three will play in the newly-formed Europa Conference League.
(Side Note: Usually more Greek teams play in European competitions, but the Greek Super League UEFA ranking dropped last season, meaning one fewer team will get the chance to play in the Champions League next season.)
Position: 1st (57 Points)
You May Have Heard Of: Sokratis Papastathopoulos. After 13 years abroad playing for some of the best teams in Italy, Germany, and England (as well as Arsenal), Sokratis has returned to the Greek Super League. You may have missed Sokratis’ departure this winter in a transfer window where Mesut Özil and Shkodran Mustafi dominated the headlines, but Sokratis had many teams including Genoa and Liverpool competing for his signature. Ultimately Greece’s seventh-most capped player of all time decided to return to his home country.
You Will Be Hearing About: Mady Camara. The 23-year old Guinean defensive midfielder has played 114 games for Olympiacos since joining the club in 2018. Camara has been capped 16 times by Guinea and has the highest market value in the league of €13.5 million, higher than the market value of eight Super League teams. AC Milan and Arsenal are rumored to be interested.
Olympiacos are going to win the league. They are currently first in the league with 57 points from 18 wins, 3 draws, and just one loss. They have scored 16 more goals than any other team, and have conceded three fewer than any other team. Having suffered only one loss and with a 15-point advantage over second-placed Aris, Olympiacos are in a great position.
Founded in 1925, Olympiacos have won an incredible 45 league titles and 28 Greek Cup victories. Olympiacos are currently in the Europa League Round of 32 where they will play PSV Eindhoven.
Position: 2nd (43 Points)
You May Have Heard Of: Konstantinos Mitroglou. Another winter transfer, Mitroglou may be most well known for his failed time with Fulham, where he played just three goal-less games after being bought for €15.2 million. Spell in Fulham aside, Mitroglou has been a consistent marksman, scoring 82 goals for Olympiacos, 52 for Benfica, and an astonishing 38 goals in 35 matches for Mönchengladbach’s U19 team.
You Will Be Hearing About: Xande Silva. This might be cheating because Silva is just with Aris on loan, but it still applies. The Portuguese youth international signed for Premier League club West Ham almost three years ago but has just made two appearances, only one of which was a league game. Silva has spent this season on loan with Aris and has only contributed to four goals. However, Aris have scored just 27 goals so Silva is one of Aris’s top contributors.
Aris have the unluckiness of being in the same city as rivals PAOK. Whilst Aris and PAOK have the same amount of league wins (three), PAOK have more Greek Cup wins and have been more successful as of late. However, Aris currently have a lead over PAOK thanks to a derby victory in December. With one more derby remaining in the regular season and two in the Championship Round (as both teams have already clinched a spot), Thessaloniki will be on edge for the next few months.
Position: 3rd (41 Points)
You May Have Heard Of: Younousse Sankharé. For almost a decade, Sankharé starred in the French Ligue 1. Eventually Sankharé left France and joined CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria. After under a year in Bulgaria, Sankharé signed for Panathinaikos this winter. The transfer has been more than worth it, as Sankharé has scored two goals and gotten an assist. Both goals have been game winners, including his goal against previously-undefeated Olympiacos.
You Will Be Hearing About: Anastasios Chatzigiovanis. Panathinaikos has produced some of the finest young talents in recent Greek history, and Chatzigiovanis looks to be the next player to join that group. Chatzigiovanis has played over 100 games for the Shamrock. Even though he is having a poor season (one goal and three assists in 19 games), he is coming off of a superb 2020 season and has had limited playing time this season.
I know I sound like a broken record, but the Premier League needs cooler names for their rivalries. In Spain, Barcelona play Real Madrid in El Clasico. Italy has Lazio play Roma in the Derby della Capitale. In Poland, we covered the Holy War. The name for Panathinaikos versus Olympiacos? The Derby of the Eternal Enemies, also known as the Mother of All Derbies. Sure beats the heck out of the Manchester Derby and the Merseyside Derby.
Panathinaikos became the first team to beat Olympiacos all season with their victory in the Derby of the Eternal Enemies. Panathinaikos are now on a roll, undefeated in nine league matches. Unfortunately for Panathinaikos, a 21st league title this season looks unlikely, but a European competition spot looks likely after climbing into the top four for the first time all season with the derby victory.
Position: 4th (40 Points)
You May Have Heard Of: Shinji Kagawa. Kagawa is just 31 but has been capped 97 times by Japan and starred for Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, and Besiktas. Kagawa joined in late January and will hope to add the spark that PAOK have been missing this season.
You Will Be Hearing About: Christos Tzolis. It’s been quite the past few months for 19-year old Christos Tzolis. In August, Tzolis had a market value of €400,000. Seven months and 22 goal contributions later, Tzolis has the second highest market value in Greece, has been capped four times by the Greek senior team, and is being linked to Borussia Dortmund and Club Brugge. He has potential to become one of Greece’s best players ever.
PAOK have finished in the top four in Greece for the past eleven seasons, but that looks in jeopardy this season. Known for their rowdy fanbase, PAOK are just three points above sixth-placed Asteras Tripolis.
PAOK have had a total of ten points deducted since 2015, and last season they had to take a decision to court to overturn a seven point deduction. The passion of the fans and owners have gotten PAOK in trouble multiple times and could ultimately be holding the team back.
Position: 5th (40 Points)
You May Have Heard Of: Marko Livaja. The Croatian winger has played throughout Europe, playing in Croatia, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, and Spain. After joining AEK in 2018, Livaja finally earned his first senior cap and has earned three more since then. Livaja has played 147 games for AEK and contributed to 71 goals.
You Will Be Hearing About: Konstantinos Galanopoulos. Fitness issues may be holding the young Greek midfielder back, but if he can overcome that he can be a star player. Galanopoulos has missed five league games this season and is currently out with an injury. Last season he missed 12 league games due to injury, and six the season before then. Despite all this, Galanpoulos has been capped multiple times for the Greek senior team and you get the feeling he hasn’t reached his full potential.
AEK have strong connections with many teams such as Marseille and St. Pauli, and it’s no surprise. They are all teams from working class cities that thinks the rest of the league is against them. All of them have fanatical fanbases, and early European success that has been hidden by the new success of wealthy rivals.
That isn’t to say that AEK haven’t been successful. They have won the league 12 times (including a victory in 2018), the cup 15 times and the Super Cup three times. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult for Greek teams to hold on to their best players, and AEK have the additional competition of superior Greek teams poaching their players, limiting recent success.
Position: 6th (37 Points)
You May Have Heard Of: Dani Suárez. The former Real Madrid center back nearly had his career ended by injury, but was able to overcome this and is now a constant in one of Greece’s best defenses.
You Will Be Hearing About: Stelios-Rafail Vallindras. Vallindras has yet to play a senior game for Asteras but is just 15 and on the first team roster for Asteras. He could be Greece’s goalkeeper for some time once he gets playing time.
Asteras Tripolis come from the small Greek city of Tripoli and (unsurprisingly) have zero major trophies despite an 89 year history. However, Asteras have played in the Europa League twice in the past ten seasons, and are on the rise. In fact, they are nicknamed “Greek Boca” after Argentinian club Boca Juniors because of the similar color scheme (blue and gold) and the amount of Argentinians that used to play for Asteras.
Whilst the Olympiacos loss to Panathinaikos makes things more interesting, it looks unlikely that Olympiacos will blow a 14 point league lead. If anyone can catch up, I don’t think it will be second-placed Aris. Panathinaikos are in superb form and have a better all round team, with many winter additions who could prove key.
Regardless of whether or not someone can catch up to Olympiacos, the Greek Super League and the following Championship Round will be fascinating to watch. There will be two editions each of the AEK-Olympiacos, AEK-Panathinaikos, Olympiacos-Panathinaikos, and PAOK-Aris rivalries in the Championship Round, and with Greece’s soccer atmosphere, it will be incredible.
Please let me know if you want an article about the teams at the bottom of the table who will be participating in the Relegation Round!
Image Courtesy of 8cthulhu8, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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