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Olympiacos CFP goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis says the Greek title-holders must show "no fear" of Chelsea FC if they are to topple their English opponents in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round.
Avram Grant's side may be pursuing all three English domestic trophies as well as the European crown, but Olympiacos are not without credentials of their own. They top the Greek Super League having not conceded in four games, showed excellent group stage form, and according to Nikopolidis, "do not fear Chelsea". The 37-year-old said of Tuesday's first-leg tie in Athens: "Everyone realises the importance of the match. We need to be disciplined and not be afraid of Chelsea. I hope we come out and play our best, and have one of our good days."
Olympiacos are in the knockout stage of the competition for the first time in nine years, having reached the 1998/99 quarter-finals. However, they have never defeated an English club over two legs in Europe, and Nikopolidis is well aware that they have a massive task to make the last eight this time round. "Chelsea have some of the best players in the world," he said. "Having said that, we know their players very well. We accept that we have a very tough job over the two games but we are united as a group."
For all their domestic dominanace – the Piraeus team have won the title ten times in the last eleven seasons – Olympiacos have often flattered to deceive in the UEFA Champions League. Nikopolidis, who recently signed a one-year contract extension and is expected to end his career at Olympiacos, is hopeful that they can change that trend against the Londoners. "We are looking forward to the challenge and intend to be at our best," he said. "We should have the self-confidence after the way we have played this season to forget about poor performances of the past in this competition."
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