SPORTS

Asteras and Olympiakos brace for appetizing final

Olympiakos and Asteras Tripolis are preparing for a Greek Cup final on Saturday evening at the Olympic Stadium of Athens that has been overshadowed by Olympiakos’s presence in basketball’s Euroleague Final Four in London in the same weekend.

The existence of a clear favorite in the final and the absence of a big name to rival Olympiakos’s mean there has been so little interest in the game that there are fears the stadium will be half-empty on Saturday, given that even Olympiakos had not managed to sell out its allocation of 33,000 tickets for the match until a few hours before kick-off. Asteras Tripolis will be happy if it can sell anywhere near 10,000 tickets.

And yet the final is promising to be a spectacular encounter for a variety of reasons. First, Olympiakos is eager to redeem itself in the eyes of its fans, who want the double and a decent showing by their team after a long period of poor games against teams that matter. Second, this may well be the last game with Olympiakos for a series of players that are about to leave Piraeus this summer.

Third, this is the first ever final for Asteras Tripolis, the side that has climbed to the third spot in the Super League table and managed to oust favorite PAOK in the semifinals of the Cup last month.

Fourth, Asteras is not a team that plays defensive soccer, so its flowing game should grace the final and get the best out of Olympiakos as well.

And fifth, Sakis Tsiolis, the Asteras manager, has made a rather provocative statement saying that “Olympiakos is predictable and we will be able to deal with its game,” which is certain to galvanize Olympiakos’s players into a solid performance on the night.

The Reds will be missing defender Avraam Papadopoulos who is injured, while coach Michel, who spent half of the week before the final in a hospital bed due to a health problem, is about to leave the league’s top scorer Rafik Djebbour on the bench and pick in-form striker Costas Mitroglou to spearhead the champion’s attack.