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Greek Cup final to limit fans over crowd violence fears

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) The Greek Cup final between champion PAOK Thessaloniki and AEK Athens on Saturday will be played in front of a limited number of invited fans due to fears of crowd violence.

No tickets will be sold for the match at the Olympic Stadium in Athens and Sports Minister Giorgos Vassiliadis said Monday’s decision follows police information that fans of both teams – and of other teams – were planning trouble on the sidelines.

PAOK and AEK have met in the past two finals with the 2017 game marred by extensive clashes in the stands.

Violence still plagues Greek soccer, despite repeated pledges by successive governments to impose order.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

PAOK first undefeated team in Greek league season for 55 years

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ATHENS, Greece — PAOK has become only the second team to go through an entire Greek league season without losing.

PAOK had already secured the title and ended its season with a 2-0 win at Giannena on Sunday. The Thessaloniki side won 26 of its 30 games, with four draws, to finish five points ahead of runner-up Olympiakos.

Both PAOK and Olympiakos qualify for the Champions League next season.

Last year’s champion AEK finished third, 23 points behind PAOK.

AEK, fourth-place Atromitos and Aris in fifth qualified for the Europa League.

Panathinaikos was undefeated 55 years ago in the 1963-64 season.

VIDEO: PAOK wins first Greek title in 34 years, fans celebrate accordingly

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THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) PAOK won the Greek league with a round to spare after beating Levadiakos 5-0.

Yevhen Shakhv scored twice for the hosts, along with goals from Diego Biseswar, Fernando Varela and Karol Swiderski.

With one round left, PAOK is five points ahead of second-place Olympiakos.

This is the third league championship for PAOK, after 1976 and 1985 titles.

A huge celebration at the city’s waterfront was planned later Sunday.

Four Balkan countries to make joint bid to host 2030 WC

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) The leaders of four Balkan countries say they will make a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

[ MORE: Barcelona taking “cautious” approach with Lionel Messi’s broken arm ]

The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania and the president of Serbia say their countries will make an official bid to host the soccer event in stadiums across the four countries.

The idea was announced on the sidelines of a regional meeting in the Black Sea resort of Varna.

[ VIDEO: Neymar, Kylian Mbappe toy with Lille; PSG go 11 points clear ]

Although the 2030 contest is not officially open, South American soccer leaders are already promoting a three-way centenary bid by Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, which was the original World Cup host in 1930.

Also, English soccer officials have launched a feasibility study into bidding in partnership with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Champions League preview: Liverpool’s fate rests on Benfica-PAOK

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Four Premier League clubs will know who they could face in the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League following the playoff round, which begins Tuesday with a trio of matches.

The most interesting tie of the bunch is Benfica against PAOK Salonika, starting Tuesday in Portugal.

[ MORE: Wenger speaks on future ]

PAOK is the biggest underdog in the playoff round, but Liverpool fans will be rooting hard for Razvan Lucescu’s Greek side. That’s because the Reds will joining Pot 2 of the UEFA Champions League draw if Benfica exits the tournament.

Frankly, many of the European hot shots would prefer Liverpool exit Pot 3. As it stands, the much-improved Reds would be a part of a horror group.

As it stands, these are the pots:

Pot 1: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Man City, Lokomotiv Moscow

Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli, Spurs, Roma

Pot 2 or 3: Liverpool

Pot 3: Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, CSKA Moscow

Pot 3 or 4: Valencia, Viktoria Plzen

Pot 4: Club Brugge, Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, Galatasaray

Of course, Liverpool could be a Pot 3 team and be the best club in its group should Lokomotiv Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Club Brugge join them.

But it’s also possible that you could get the Reds in a group with Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan. Yikes.

So look for most non-English Pot 1 and 2 teams to want Benfica to fall victim to Pontus Wernbloom, Chuba Akpom, and Vieirinha’s PAOK.

Playoff round schedule
All times ET

BATE Borisov vs. PSV Eindhoven
3 p.m. Tuesday in Belarus
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in the Netherlands

Benfica vs. PAOK Salonika
3 p.m. Tuesday in Portugal
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Greece

Red Star Belgrade vs. Red Bull Salzburg
3 p.m. Tuesday in Serbia
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Austria

Young Boys vs. Dinamo Zagreb
3 p.m. Wednesday in Switzerland
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Croatia

MOL Vidi (Videoton) vs. AEK Athens
3 p.m. Wednesday in Hungary
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Greece

Ajax vs. Dynamo Kyiv
3 p.m. Wednesday in the Netherlands
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Ukraine