Olympiacos CFP captain Predrag Djordjević hopes his side can make up for a succession of missed opportunities by finally reaching the last 16 again.
Olympiacos CFP captain Predrag Djordjević will be feeling the tension more than most come kick off against Werder Bremen on Tuesday night. The veteran midfielder joined the club in 1996 and has helped Olympiacos reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League eleven seasons in a row.
Only once, though, have they progressed to the knockout rounds in that time. As they bid to do so again the 35-year-old will have the hardest role of all, watching on from the stands as he serves a suspension. Djordjević knows all about the heartache of missed opportunities, and will be desperate his team-mates give him another chance to compete in the competition again by getting the draw they need against Bremen to advance.
"I wish we could have achieved more in the UEFA Champions League in the past," he told uefa.com. "This team deserved more over the past eleven seasons. From time to time, I feel sad thinking about specific moments when we ran out of luck or when things just didn't go for us. I believe we deserved more than just one quarter-final appearance in those eleven seasons.
"In the spring of 1999, we came within five minutes of qualifying for the semi-finals, but Juventus' Antonio Conte equalised in the 85th minute and we were eliminated. Even to this day, I cannot describe how I felt later that night. The second bitter moment was in the final game of the 2004/05 group stage. We already had ten points from our previous five matches and we managed to score the opener [against Liverpool FC] at Anfield on the last day.
'Made to pay'
"But we were made to pay during a very cruel second half. Liverpool turned the match around, scored three goals in 45 minutes and qualified thanks to Steven Gerrard's late goal. But I guess it was Liverpool's time to shine. A few months later, they were losing 3-0 at half-time to Milan and managed again to turn the match around and win the trophy in Istanbul. That's football. Luck always plays a big part."
Djordjević will be hoping luck goes Olympiacos's way on Tuesday, but if it does, Panagiotis Lemonis's side will have earned their good fortune. "In the last two seasons we were eliminated because of our mediocre home performances," said Djordjević, who has played in 59 of his team's 67 games in the competition. "This season, we have corrected many things in our game. The fact we won away for the first time in eleven seasons has done wonders for our morale. That result at [Werder] Bremen helped us a lot. We are more consistent compared with previous seasons and have fewer ups-and-downs in our game, especially away from home. We used to play below our level, now that's all changed."
This article is based on an interview conducted last month. To read it in full, click here.