Olympiakos a step away from fourth straight league title

Olympiakos is just one victory from winning its fourth consecutive league title, and 11th in 12 years. The Piraeus club goes into Sunday’s final round of Super League play with a two-point advantage over second-placed AEK, the only other candidate left in the title race. Olympiakos, whose squad is expected to be at full strength, hosts midtable Iraklis. Not shooting for anything, the only thing the Thessaloniki team could do is destroy Olympiakos’s title bid, which would be a major upset. After holding top spot for the season’s greater part, AEK suffered a spell of bad form and surrendered the lead several weeks ago. But the club has rebounded since it fired Spanish coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer in February. Players, officials and fans at AEK, now without a title for 14 years, believe that, based on overall performance this season, AEK should have been the prime candidate for the title. Led by interim coach Nikos Kostenoglou, Ferrer’s assistant, AEK has displayed impressive form over the past few weeks. Unlike Ferrer, Kostenoglou has relied to a far lesser degree on a rotation system and stuck to a more consistent lineup. For its finale, AEK hosts newly promoted Asteras Tripolis, currently fifth and eyeing a spot in the playoffs, reserved for second to fifth places, which will decide the final placings for participation in European competitions next season. AEK will be hoping that Olympiakos slips at home to Iraklis and that it is victorious over Asteras, a combination that would hand AEK the title. Otherwise, the Athens club’s only other source of hope is an international sport tribunal’s verdict on an appeal filed by Apollon Kalamaria. After losing against the Thessaloniki team, already relegated, Olympiakos was awarded the game’s three points by a domestic tribunal after arguing Apollon had fielded an ineligible player. Just a step away from the newly introduced playoffs for second to fifth places, Asteras, two points ahead of Panionios and Larissa, can be expected to provide major resistance against AEK. The playoff competition, to follow next week’s end of home-and-away competition, was agreed to by the Super League board last summer.

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