Title race heads for end

With three points separating the top three clubs, the Greek first division goes into its final round of competition tonight with front-runners Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK all vying for the title. All games start at 6.30 p.m. Victory for Olympiakos in Thessaloniki against Iraklis, a contender for a UEFA Cup berth, would assure the Piraeus club of its 33rd league title irrespective of other results, and also hand the team the double following last weekend’s Greek Cup triumph against Aris. Olympiakos, on 62 points, leads Panathinaikos by one point and AEK by three. Panathinaikos goes to Crete to meet local side OFI. Lying low in the standings yet safely above the relegation zone, the Cretan club has nothing to shoot for in the final round. Traditionally, its record against Panathinaikos has been poor. AEK, the other title contender, hosts Thessaloniki team Apollon Kalamaria, which, until recently, was threatened by relegation. Should any of the title contenders of this three-horse race end the season on equal points, head-to-head records will be taken into account to break the deadlocks. Playoffs may be necessary in some cases. For instance, a tie between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos would not be broken by their head-to-head record. Both sides have won a game apiece and the aggregate score of their games is balanced. Such is also the case between Olympiakos and AEK. Interestingly, if all three contenders end up tied, AEK would be crowned league champion. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, AEK, the season’s surprise package, ought to go into the summer break feeling satisfied by its efforts. The club began the season burdened by administrative and financial woes but has gradually edged its way toward recovery. Threatened by relegation to amateur competition because of its poor financial condition, AEK was injected with new life earlier this season when a considerable amount of debt owed to the state was written off the club’s books. At the lower end of the standings, Aris yesterday lost its battle to remain in the first division after a sports tribunal rejected an appeal for sanctions concerning fan violence. Irrespective of today’s result, Aris ends 14th in the 16-team standings and cannot move any higher. The bottom three teams are relegated. Ergotelis and Kerkyra are the other two. Responding to a pitch invasion by fans, the tribunal deducted three points from Aris’s tally, fined it 100,000 euros, ordered it to play six home games without spectators, and declared it loser of the game in which the violence occurred. Aris was trailing visiting Iraklis 2-1 on May 15 when fans invaded the pitch in the 42nd minute.

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