SPORTS

Showtime: Maroussi meets Panathinaikos

Leading the way in the A1, Greece’s top basketball league division, just before the midway mark, Maroussi, a surprise package without a tradition of being at the top end of the standings, will be seeking victory against Panathinaikos tonight (Supersport, 7 p.m.) to clinch the unofficial title of «winter champion» as the top-placed side halfway through the season’s home-and-away games. Maroussi has won all but one of its 12 games and is undefeated in its six home matches at its Aghios Thomas stadium in Athens, where it faces Panathinaikos tonight. A win by Panathinaikos would put the more established club in top spot – on equal points with Maroussi but with a better head-to-head record. «You don’t need to find motives for the players in games such as this one. It exists in itself and is self-explanatory,» noted Maroussi’s coach Panayiotis Yiannakis, a former playing legend who helped Greece win a European title in 1987, the national team’s greatest distinction to date. «Both sides have their advantages and will try to utilize them. Panathinaikos is on an upward trend, as the team has indicated with recent results, so we’ve prepared for an extremely tough match regardless of what the opponent’s lineup will be,» he added. Maroussi, which goes into tonight’s clash as a full-strength side, will be hoping to capitalize on its home-ground advantage and impressive form to date. From its perspective, Panathinaikos, a dominant side in Europe and at home in recent seasons with European titles in 2000 and 2002, and a string of domestic league titles since 1998, will pursue victory to reinforce its standing. Last weekend, Panathinaikos defeated perennial rival Olympiakos, a well-manned team that has, nevertheless, failed to produce results this season. Today’s game was originally scheduled for earlier this season but was rescheduled to offer Panathinaikos the opportunity to travel to North America for a friendly match against the Canadian NBA side Raptors.