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Nikopolidis taking nothing for granted

Published: Wednesday 9 December 2009, 8.44CET
Almost 39 and not yet contemplating retirement, Antonis Nikopolidis has been around long enough to know Olympiacos FC cannot expect an easy ride against Arsenal FC as they look to seal a last-16 berth.
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
from Athens
Nikopolidis taking nothing for granted
Antonis Nikopolidis is ready to face Arsenal again in the UEFA Champions League ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

OlympiacosArsenal

Goals scored5
 
21
Attempts on target35
 
72
Attempts off target42
 
44
Corners42
 
58
Offsides15
 
19
Fouls committed112
 
147
Yellow cards18
 
19
Red cards2
 
0
 
Published: Wednesday 9 December 2009, 8.44CET

Nikopolidis taking nothing for granted

Almost 39 and not yet contemplating retirement, Antonis Nikopolidis has been around long enough to know Olympiacos FC cannot expect an easy ride against Arsenal FC as they look to seal a last-16 berth.

Antonis Nikopolidis knows his Olympiacos FC side are just a point away from guaranteeing a place in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round, but the goalkeeper is taking nothing for granted before Wednesday's meeting with Arsenal FC.

When I'm no longer eager to play football, when I can't concentrate as hard as I want to, when other things besides football become more important; then it will be time to go
Antonis Nikopolidis

Arsenal changes
With Arsenal enjoying an unassailable lead atop Group H and tipped to field a weakened XI against the Greek titleholders, Nikopolidis knows his team should have more than just home advantage at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Second in the section, Olympiacos enjoy a three-point lead over R. Standard de Liège, though they would miss out on head-to-head record if they lose and the Belgian side beat eliminated AZ Alkmaar. The veteran keeper, who helped Greece win UEFA EURO 2004™ and will turn 39 next month, is well aware of the stakes.

Qualification close
"We are close, yet far away," he told uefa.com. "It will be tricky and we will have to put on our best performance. Let's not forget that so far this season we've been unlucky, with many important players sidelined. It's been a rough period, but we've managed to cope and as my team-mates recover and return to action, we only can get better."

Wenger tribute
Nikopolidis managed to cope with Arsenal's strikeforce for much of September's meeting between the sides in north London, before Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin struck in the last 12 minutes for a 2-0 win. Arsène Wenger, for one, was impressed: "Nikopolidis was not only good, he was intelligent as well because he read everything. You could see why he played for the Greek national team for such a long time."

Doing homework
The keeper himself called it a "special performance" and the prospect of a Matchday 6 decider will be another test. "A goalkeeper has to be patient and cash in on his experience," he said. "He has to observe everything that happens around him during the game … and what he wants from his defenders. He also has to keep observing his opponents, every player: how they take their penalties, how they shoot, their crossing skills, their finishing touches. That's why it's my firm belief that a goalkeeper's preparation is more mental than physical."

Goalkeeping legacy
It is an analysis that begs an obvious question – how much longer can he keep doing it? Though he retired from international football in 2008, Nikopolidis has been a key figure in Olympiacos's domestic success since joining in 2004. "It's my mind, rather than my body, that will dictate when I retire," he said. "When I'm no longer eager to play football, when I can't concentrate as hard as I want to, when other things besides football become more important; then it will be time to go. However, my main concern is to retire when I'm still top of my game and not deteriorating. I want people to remember me at my very best."

Last updated: 09/12/09 20.49CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2010/matches/round=2000028/match=2000450/prematch/focus/index.html#nikopolidis+taking+nothing+granted

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