Olympiacos and PAOK both set to put 100% records on the line
The Superleague Greece has always been a fascinating competition. Even though four clubs have dominated it since 1947. Those powerhouses are AEK Athens, Panathinaikos, Olympiacos Piraeus and PAOK Thessaloniki. The latter two will compete later today. It's a game not to be missed.
The inter-city derby is invariably hotly contested. This season's first encounter has added incentive, as both Olympiacos and PAOK have picked up a maximum 12 points so far.
History is in favour of the Thrylos. The most recognisable Greek side have won 57 league games against their Athens foes. The Thessaloniki-based outfit have managed 39 victories. The pair also shares 22 draws.
Nicknamed Erythrolefkoi, which translates to the Red and Whites, Olympiacos is Greece's most successful club in history. During 93 years of existence, the Piraeus-based team has claimed 44 Super League titles; hence the four gold stars which appear on their crest.
PAOK, meanwhile, boast two championships. Those came in 1975/76 and 1984/85. The side's supporters believe number three is a realistic possibility come the campaign's end.
In March, the Northern Birch were docked two points by the Greek Football Federation due to fans' behaviour. There was also an incident involving their chairman, Ivan Savvidis, who entered the pitch to confront the referee with a gun in his pocket. That led to much controversy.
For those not aware, political outrage is commonplace in Greece. Whether it be on the streets, in the stands or elsewhere, protesting has always been the norm.
Today's game will take place at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Despite holding only 32,000, it will feel like double that. The atmosphere is sure to be electric due to how much the occasion means to both sets of supporters.
The rivalry transcends football. It has historical catalysts. Olympiacos and PAOK are the two most followed clubs from each rivalling city, Piraeus and Thessaloniki respectively. Thessalonians believe the Greek State favoured their neighbour, which has had a knock-on effect in the Macedonian saga.
There have been times when PAOK felt treated unfairly by referees against Olympiacos. There was also an incident in 1966 where a key player, Giorgios Koudas, was tempted with a move to the Thrylos. Northern Birch fans deemed this unjust. They protested and eventually stopped the transfer. Ever since, the feud has been heated. It is normal to witness charged atmospheres, flares, fireworks, launched missiles and even assaults on stewards. The tension isn't just between the clubs, but the people.
Greek sides gain media attention from playing in European competition. Over the years, they have delivered some credible performances. Olympiacos are taking part in this season's Europa League, having finished third in Greece's top division last campaign. They are grouped with AC Milan, Real Betis and F91 Dudelange from Luxembourg. Pedro Martins' men claimed a 0-0 draw in their opener against Spanish opposition. A decent start, yet not great.
PAOK are in the Europa League, too. They are tasked with overcoming Chelsea, Bate Borisov and Hungarian side MOL Vidi. Losing 1-0 at home to the Blues ten days ago wasn't too bad. Razvan Lucescu's charges should still progress from the group.
With both Athens teams competing at the same European level, it is an opportunity for bragging rights. Each is expected to do fairly well judging on recent-season performance. The continent is hugely important as it offers Greek sides a chance to show off their superiority back home.
Olympiacos possess a few standout names in captain Kostas Fourtounis, who has represented Greece 35 times, and former Manchester City defender Omar Elabdellaoui. They re-signed Yaya Toure this past summer, too, after his departure from the Citizens. Meanwhile, notable PAOK players include ex-Arsenal forward Chuba Akpom, Vierinha and Swedish midfielder Pontus Wernbloom.
The two teams, currently sitting second and third in Greece's Super League, have conceded just one goal apiece up to now. Both should prove tough to break down, so expect a close contest.
PAOK will arrive confident. Olympiacos are no pushovers, though. Especially at home. Whatever the result, it will have an effect on the title race.