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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.

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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.

UCL playoff preview: Ajax, Benfica, PSV looking for group stage spot

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The Champions League is nearly back to the apex of its competition, as the final playoff round gets set for its finale and the group stage looks for its final participants. There are only six spaces left among the group stage participants, and some big-name clubs will take the field for their matchup’s second leg.

Dutch giants Ajax are in a solid position, up 3-1 over Dynamo Kiev after the home leg and now hit the road to Ukraine hoping to wrap things up on Tuesday. They have been scoring at will of late, coming off a 5-0 demolition of Eredivisie minnows FC Emmen. They have scored 20 goals over their last eight matches across all competitions, with 35-year-old Klass-Jan Huntelaar owning six of those and former Southampton man Dusan Tadic owning five.

[ MORE: 7 young players who could earn England debut ]

Kiev, meanwhile, has been quite the opposite. Through five matches in Ukranian Premier League play, Kiev has scored just five goals, but has conceded just one, sitting third in the league table with 13 points, although they have a game in hand on those above them and remain the only unbeaten team remaining in league play.

Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb and Swiss champs Young Boys are both level at 1-1 heading to the second leg in Zagreb. The home side will hope for a better start than in the first leg, when Young Boys grabbed the opener just two minutes into the match.

Also on Tuesday, Greek side AEK Athens takes a 2-1 lead back home over Hungarian club MOL Vidi.

On Wednesday, another Dutch club looks to seal up a lead, as PSV Eindhoven returns home with a 3-2 advantage over Belarusian club BATE Borisov in tow. They led 2-1 late in the first leg, and the game finished wildly as BATE equalized in the 88th minute before PSV retook the lead just a minute later. The three away goals are all massive, as is coming home with a lead of any kind. PSV has participated in the Champions League group stage in two of the last three seasons, reaching the knockout stage in 2015/16.

Portuguese giants Benfica sit in a precarious position, heading out on the road to visit Greek side PAOK with that matchup level at 1-1. Benfica held a lead on a goal just before halftime, but they conceded a scrappy away goal in the 76th minute on a set-piece.

Finally, Red Bull Salzburg hosts Red Star Belgrade after a 0-0 first leg in Serbia.

Five PAOK fans hurt by hooligans before Basel match

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BASEL, Switzerland (AP) Swiss police say five fans of Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki were hurt in an attack by local hooligans at a hotel in Basel.

The incident on Wednesday came hours before Thessaloniki beat FC Basel 3-0 in a Champions League qualifying match, eliminating the Swiss team 5-1 on aggregate.

City police said on Thursday about 20 men, some of them with Basel flags, used unspecified objects to attack about 50 fans of the Greek team who were in and outside a hotel lobby. Four men and a 15-year-old girl were hurt, and one of them had to be taken to a hospital.

The assailants fled the scene.

Police appealed to the public to come forward with any photos or video recordings.

PAOK owner banned, team docked points for violence

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) The owner of Greek soccer club PAOK Thessaloniki has been banned for three years for his part in violence that occurred during a match against AEK Athens, including running onto the field with a holstered pistol on his hip.

PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis, a powerful Russian-Greek businessman, was also fined 100,000 euros ($123,000).

The club itself was docked three points for violence that interrupted recent matches against Olympiakos and AEK – incidents that triggered a two-week suspension of the league.

Thursday’s ruling gives AEK a seven-point advantage over Olympiakos and sees PAOK drop to third place with five matches remaining – unless the decision is overturned on appeal.

Olympiakos has dominated the league for two decades, but AEK is now favored to win for the first time in 24 years.