After racking up the highest points tally of the UEFA Champions League group stage, expectation has soared at FC Girondins de Bordeaux. Jaroslav Plašil warns the Ligue 1 titleholders must not get carried away ahead of their first knockout round tie with Olympiacos FC. In his wide-ranging Q&A with uefa.com readers, the Czech Republic midfielder also extols the virtues of Laurent Blanc, outlines his high praise for Pavel Nedvěd and reveals his newly-acquired taste for Bordeaux's local tipple.
Your talent was always obvious but you seem to have crossed a barrier since leaving France and returning. What did you learn from your time with Osasuna?
Cédric, 24, Monaco
Jaroslav Plašil: At Osasuna I was playing for a team battling relegation. During my two years there it was mainly about fighting to win the ball rather than keeping possession. Unfortunately, we did not play football much in Osasuna. This is the biggest difference. Have I got better since leaving Osasuna? Maybe I needed to join a different club. If I've improved it's thanks to the club I play for now. Bordeaux's style suits me.
How do you like the city of Bordeaux and the region around it? Do you like French wine?
Petr, 46, Czech Republic
Plašil: I like wine; I prefer red. But I can't say I have a favourite kind and I'm not an expert like Vladi Šmicer. As for the city, it's small but the centre – the area where I live – is nice. It's the historic part of town and it's a bit like Paris. In general, Bordeaux is a very nice city with nice people. Of course, the surrounding region is famous for its vineyards. And Bordeaux is also only 45 minutes from the sea. I feel happy here.
Jaro, you speak perfect French: how did you learn it?
Christian Spence, 16, Paris
Plašil: I had no choice other than to learn it – and quickly. I was only a year older than you when I went to Monaco. The credit goes to my teacher at the time, she is a Czech who has been living in France for many years. It's thanks to her that I learnt this language.
Do you think Bordeaux have exceeded expectations? How much has Laurent Blanc contributed to the success?
Nicholas Chuang, California, United States
Plašil: We know our fans want 100 per cent from us. We're still involved in four competitions: the French League, Champions League and both domestic Cups. Expectations are high and it's up to us to succeed. It will be very difficult to win all four competitions but we've started very well and I think we can lift at least one trophy. As for Laurent Blanc; he has been in charge for almost three years. He finished runners-up in his first year and became a champion in his second so you have to say his contribution is massive. He has built a very good team and, for me, he's a super coach.
Is Laurent Blanc the great French coach of tomorrow?
Jacques Alberola, 28, Nice, France
Plašil: I can't predict his future. At the moment he's in charge of Bordeaux. It is the same when you're a player. You are at a club, but no one knows where you'll be playing in a few years' time. Whether he's going to coach a really big club or the French national team, it's all just speculation at the moment. However, he has the credentials and he's been very successful. He was a great player and he's proved a great coach too.
You have played under Dider Deschamps and Laurent Blanc in great teams at Monaco and Bordeaux. What differences do those teams have in terms of approaching games and style of play?
Plašil: I played under Didier Deschamps three or four years ago and I was young. I did not start regularly in the first team to begin with, but things improved. The approach of both men is similar; they are hard-working coaches with winning attitudes. They both have a good chance of becoming French national team coach in the future.
Bordeaux won more points than any other team in the Champions League group stage. Did you surpass even your own expectations?
Tim Drakes, Derby, England
Plašil: When you face Bayern and Juventus in the group, the most important thing is simply to try to qualify. There were no expectations that we could finish first after four matches, so it was a bit of a surprise. But I'm sure we deserved it.
Are Bordeaux favourites for the tie with Olympiacos?
George, Nicosia, Cyprus
Plašil: No, I think both clubs have the same chance. Both teams are in good form. If we are favourites it's only because we won the group with the highest amount of points. I don't agree it will be an easy game.
How do you rate Olympiacos? Are you scared of playing them in Greece as they have a good record at home in the Champions League?
Ben Scott-Mavroudi, 20, Athens, Greece
Plašil: I have already experienced playing at Olympiacos's ground – I lost 1-0 there when I was playing for Monaco [in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League group stage]. It was one of the most intense atmospheres I've ever experienced in a stadium, so I expect it will be a bit like hell for us! Their supporters really can help their team.
What's it like to be compared to Pavel Nedvěd?
John Stuart, Edinburgh, Scotland
Plašil: Pavel Nedvěd is still THE icon of Czech football despite the fact he retired last summer. For me he's one of the best players in Czech history, if not the very best. I'm a different kind of player. Maybe the fact we both have blond hair makes people compare us!
How disappointed are you about missing the World Cup and do you plan on playing international football through to 2014?
Thomas Ryan, Hammonton, New Jersey, United States
Plašil: It was obviously a big disappointment. We had a group from which we should have finished second at least. Unfortunately, we failed and it hurts all of us because the World Cup is the biggest tournament you can play in. And on the top of that, in your country's shirt. I don't know what will happen between now and 2014, but of course I would like to play in that tournament.
Was Pavel Nedvěd's retirement a big factor in the Czech Republic's failure to reach the World Cup?
John, 18, Glasgow, Scotland
Plašil: When great players like Pavel Nedvěd, Karel Poborský or Vladi Šmicer retire, it's a big loss. And it's very difficult to replace them immediately.
What are the best exercises to practice my ball skills?
Dan Billmann, 15, Cincinnati, United States
Plašil: There's nothing better than finding a wall, kicking the ball against it and then controlling the balls as they bounce back. You should try to control the ball in as many ways as possible.
Who is your favourite team?
Plašil: I like teams that try to play football in all circumstances, like Barcelona and Arsenal.
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