SPORTS

AEK and Atromitos brace for Cup showdown

AEK and Atromitos will be clashing in the Greek Cup final on April 30 hoping to win a trophy that will brush aside their league woes and make their season one to remember.

The two Athens sides will meet at the Olympic Stadium at 8.30 p.m. in front of a sell-out crowd as one of the most interesting cup competitions in recent years culminates in a game that has a clear favorite and a rank outsider.

AEK beat Panathinaikos in the quarterfinals and then saw off PAOK in a tense semi after the Thessaloniki side had disposed of Olympiakos in the previous round. So, the final appears on the surface to be an anticlimax given that Atromitos has never made it this far in the tournament before.

However, as its players suggested, the lowly Athens side has nothing to lose, having recently escaped relegation. AEK, on the other hand, is hoping to banish memories of league defeats like the 6-0 drubbing at Olympiakos this season and earn some silverware for the first time since 2002. Nine years is a long time to go without trophies for a club like AEK.

This is why its fans rushed to exhaust the club’s ticket allocation of about 35,000, forcing AEK to ask for more seats from the federation. However, the police would not risk reducing the security zones between rival fans and declined to allow for more gates to open for AEK fans.

Atromitos is also expected to sell out its allocation of 12,000 tickets, a considerable amount given that its home ground has a capacity of 9,000 and is hardly ever full.

The Peristeri club’s Senegalese star, Henri Camara stirred things up in the run-up to the final, stating that: «The chances in this final are not 50-50; Atromitos will win.» He made this statement on April 26, after having his hair cut so that his head displays his shirt number, seven.

AEK coach Manolo Jimenez apparently used this statement to stoke his players? pride: «I realize this has upset you and I cannot hide that I am happy about that,» he reportedly told them at the team’s training center.

“This should keep you focused, you should remain upset about it and save this flame for the game. You should prepare to the maximum for the final and give your answer on the pitch,» the Spanish coach said according to reports.

Unfortunately for the prestige of the competition, President Karolos Papoulias has this time decided not to attend the final, unlike in previous years, reflecting the current disenchantment with the image of Greek soccer.

The game will be screened live on state channel NET and on Conn-X TV Sports.

The winner of the Cup gets a berth in the last qualifying round of next season’s Europa League.