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Defender Nicolaos Katsavakis has called on his team-mates to "keep the dream alive" as Anorthosis Famagusta FC prepare for one of the biggest games in their history at home to Panathinaikos FC on Wednesday.
Having beaten SK Rapid Wien and Olympiacos CFP in qualifying to become the first Cypriot club to grace the UEFA Champions League group stage, Temuri Ketsbaia's side continued to defy the odds with a resilient 0-0 draw at Werder Bremen on Matchday 1. It was an eye-catching result and one, Katsavakis believes, which Anorthosis can better against a team defeated 2-0 at home by FC Internazionale Milano on opening night. "The big moment is here," the 29-year-old Greek told uefa.com. "This is a huge game for all the players. Panathinaikos are a great side but we too have shown we're worthy. We're in good mental shape and we'll give our all to keep the dream alive."
Katsavakis knows only too well what awaits his team in their second Group B outing. The centre-back played in the lower rungs of Greek football earlier in his career and was one of Anorthosis' star performers when they saw off Super League champions Olympiacos in August – yet he insists his background will have no bearing on the match. "For me, the fact I'll be playing against a Greek side means nothing," he said. "This is just another game and we have to be focused and ready for them. This is definitely the biggest game of my career. We have all worked extremely hard to get where we are and that shows a lot about the character of the club."
Although he will be facing some of his most highly-rated countrymen at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, Katsavakis believes the standard of football in the two nations is much closer now than when he quit the Greek game six years ago to join Dighenis Akritas Morphou FC – a club who averaged crowds of 800 during their top-flight stay. "Since I've been here, I've seen a steady improvement in the level of football on the island," he explained. "In addition, more money has been invested by a lot of clubs and we see top-quality players coming here. You only have to look at us signing [Traianos] Dellas and Sávio to see how far we've come."
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