CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Black and Golds regroup at home on Wednesday to make one final push for Champions League qualification with a rematch of the last game of the regular season.
Eddie Johnson and Freddy Adu can both expect to see playing time with Aris riddled with suspensions and injury concerns.
Wednesday's game kicks off an intense stretch of six games within 19 days for playoff contenders Aris, PAOK, AEK Athens and Olympiacos. The top team books a spot into Champions League next season, while the other three enter the Europa League.
Coming off a disappointing loss in the Greek Cup final against Panathinaikos, Aris enter the playoffs with a four-point deficit to make up, and will need a win against the leaders with four points to boost their slim chances of finishing first.
Coach Hector Cuper will be facing the absence of several players due to suspensions, including Mehdi Nafti, Javier Campora and Efthimios Kouloucheris.
The Argentine coach is awaiting the verdict of an appeal against the three-game suspension for Carlos Arano, after picking up a red card in the 2-1 loss against Olympiacos.
To make matters worse, Toni Calvo's abdominal discomfort will keep him out of the match. On a brighter note, the absences will guarantee playing time for Aris' American duo.
Things don't look any better for Piraeus skipper Božidar Bandović. Pavel Kováč will remain the keeper of choice for Olympiacos with go-to keeper Urko Rafael Pardo suspended after his red card two Sundays ago.
The author of the winning goal in that encounter, Enzo Maresca, is also doubtful with an ailing knee.
Midfielders Jesús Dátolo and Jaouad Zairi have not made the trip to Thessaloniki, and defender Vasilis Torosidis suffered a slight injury to his Achilles and will be out a week.