Olympiacos CFP defender Michał Żewłakow believes the Greek title-holders can look forward to receiving "greater respect" as they await Friday's draw for the UEFA Champions League first knockout round.
The 31-year-old Polish international enjoyed what he called "the greatest moment of his Olympiacos career" on Matchday 6 when the Piraeus club beat Werder Bremen 3-0 at home to reach the competition's last 16 for the first time since 1998/99 (when they were quarter-finalists). But while the tough-tackling left-back accepts that his team must be at their very best to advance further, he is confident their next opponents will offer them respect after they eliminated Bremen and S.S. Lazio, finishing behind Real Madrid CF only on head-to-head record.
"I think after our results in the group stage a lot of teams will have greater respect for us," Żewłakow told uefa.com. "Our progress from here will depend a lot on what team we can put out. I would say, though, that we are a strong, united team, it's not about individuals. However, when you come up against sides like [FC] Barcelona and Real Madrid then I believe the form of the team on the day decides the game."
Żewłakow's side cannot draw Madrid on Friday but Barcelona are among seven tough potential opponents. "We will have to be at our very best to compete with teams like Barça," added Żewłakow, who has made himself a firm fans' favourite with his committed displays since joining from RSC Anderlecht in 2006. "That said, anything is possible in football. If somebody had told me before our first game against Lazio [on Matchday 1] that we would end up level on points with Real, then I would have said they were crazy. But that is the reality. We finished level with them and can now look forward to the last 16."
That was thanks to the defeat of Bremen, and according to Żewłakow, the German club underestimated their hosts last week. "Before the match, when we were shaking hands with them, I felt from the way they looked at us that they were too sure of themselves and I'm proud we beat them 3-0. I think we can be really proud of what we have achieved so far. It's definitely the greatest and most memorable moment for me since I came to Olympiacos."
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