AEK Athens vs Bayern – Tuesday, October 23, 17:55BST/18:55CEST –OAKA Spyros Louis, Athens, Greece
It was a historic season for AEK Athens in 2017/18. The club ended up winning their first Greek championship since 1994. The return to the top came on the back of a significant rebuild in Athens.
Relegated from the first division in 2013 AEK went bankrupt and had to restart in the third division. From there the club slowly rebuilt and like a phoenix from the ashes, AEK won the title last season and then topped their season by qualifying for the Champions League by eliminating first Celtic and Vidi FC during the qualification stage.
It was one of the most controversial Greek championships in recent history. AEK were neck on neck with Thessaloniki based club PAOK for much of the season. Ultimately, the title was decided in the courtrooms of the Greek football federation as PAOK president Ivan Savvidis interfered at the PAOK vs AEK matchup by storming onto the pitch with a gun holstered to his belt.
This year AEK have, however, have struggled at times. Domestically, the club sits in fourth place six points behind first placed PAOK. In the Champions League, the Greek champions are three points adrift at the bottom of the section
Speaking to the German magazine kicker technical director Nikos Liberopoulos, however, urged his players not to be afraid of Bayern. “We are playing at home against a world-class team, and everything can happen. The players should have respect for a big opponent but at the same time can’t be afraid.”
Whether Bayern are still a world-class team is something that has been up for debate recently. Fourth in the Bundesliga and second place, level with leaders Ajax on four points, Bayern have been somewhat in crisis in recent weeks. Always a favourite among the Champions League winner predictions Bayern a big statement game in the Champions League to underline that status.
A run of four games without a win and criticism by the media meant that Bayern’s bosses President Uli Hoeneß and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge issued a controversial press conference on Friday afternoon. In that press conference, Hoeneß and Rummenigge heavily criticised the media and swore that the “club will from now on be unified,” Hoeneß said and Rummenigge added that “from now on we will protect our players, coaches and the club.”
It was a media conference that brought a largely negative media-echo with several news outlets opting to print satirical stories following Bayern’s clinical, yet not sensational, victory over Wolfsburg on Saturday. Bayern defeated die Wölfe 3-1 on Saturday despite playing 30 minutes with one man down. But at the same time, the game also highlighted that der Rekordmeister remains vulnerable in the transition game and is overly dependent on star striker Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski, therefore, scoring twice is good news for Bayern. With the Polish striker on form, Bayern should have enough to see off AEK on Tuesday in Athens. Whether the club has enough to compete for the title, however, is a question that only time can answer.
AEK Athens vs Bayern – Players to look out for:
Ezequiel Ponce #22 – AEK Athens
On loan from Roma Ezequiel Ponce had a great start at AEK. The 21-year-old Argentine striker has already scored two goals in three Greek Super League matches this season. Signed by Roma from Newell’s Old Boys in 2015 Ponce is already on his third loan spell and the Italian side hope that Champions League football will provide Ponce with the next stage in his development.
Robert Lewandowski #9 – Bayern München
Polish striker Robert Lewandowski failed to score a goal in six games for Bayern and Poland in three different competitions. An eternity for the 31-year-old. Against Wolfsburg Lewandowski was once again clinical and, as a result, Bayern’s winless streak ended. The game highlighted that Lewandowski still got the killer instinct but also underlines Bayern’s dependence on the Polish forward.
AEK Athens vs Bayern – Match Stats
- Beaten 3-0 at Ajax in their first fixture, AEK went down 3-2 at home to Benfica on matchday two – ending a seven-match unbeaten run in European competition in Athens.
- The Athens club’s previous home European defeat was a 2-0 loss against CSKA in last season’s UEFA Champions League third qualifying round; their record since had been W2 D5.
- AEK were 14 European games unbeaten (W4 D10), home and away, before the loss at Ajax.
- AEK have won only two of their nine European fixtures against German clubs (D1 L6), both at home. The most recent contest ended in a 2-0 reverse against Alemannia Aachen in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage, a third defeat in their five home matches with German visitors.
- Bayern are unbeaten in their last six away European games (W5 D1); the match at Benfica was their first clean sheet on their UEFA Champions League travels in 15 matches.
- Bayern have never lost to a Greek club, home or away (W7 D2), and have picked up victories in three of their four trips to Greece – most recently a 3-0 success at Olympiacos in the 2015/16 group stage in which Thomas Müller scored twice.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: AEK Athens vs Bayern – 0-4
AEK Athens vs Bayern – Lineups
Barkas – Hult, Lampropoulos, Oikonomou, Bakakis – Galanopoulos, André Simoes – Mantalos, Klonaridis, Bakasetas
Head Coach: Marinos Ouzounidis
Neuer – Alaba, Boateng, Süle, Kimmich – Thiago – Ribéry, Goretzka, Müller, Robben – Lewandowski
Head Coach: Niko Kovac
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.