Olympiacos FC keeper Antonis Nikopolidis said that the departure of Temuri Ketsbaia on the eve of their Group H opener against AZ Alkmaar must provide "a wake-up call" for the Greek champions.
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On the eve of UEFA Champions League Matchday 1, players would expect to relax, have a briefing on their opponents and do some light training. Indeed that was the case for Olympiacos FC with one addition – the departure of coach Temuri Ketsbaia.
Antonis Nikopolidis and the rest of this squad discovered on Tuesday that they would be under the caretaker charge of Božidar Bandović in their opening Group H game against AZ Alkmaar. Full time on Wednesday will bring no respite, either, as over the next fortnight Olympiacos visit FC PAOK and AEK Athens FC in the league, as well as welcoming Panionios GSS, before a demanding trip to Arsenal FC.
"Whenever such a change occurs, it's not good news for the team," said Nikopolidis who, at 37, is just three years Bandović's junior. "It means the team wasn't functioning well and the administration was forced to change things. We didn't anticipate such a development so soon. But I want to underline that the coach is not the only one responsible for our poor performances. We players have our share of the responsibility and we're aware of it. What we must do now is react in a positive manner."
The goalkeeper knows the Dutch champions will not make things easy for their Greek counterparts, who beat ŠK Slovan Bratislava and FC Sheriff to reach the group stage. "We have a challenge ahead of us," Nikopolidis said. "We must give it our best, boost our confidence and give our fans something to cheer about. Starting with Alkmaar we will play to win. We have to be very careful in defence, as they have an attacking side, but hopefully we will find the space to counterattack and score."
Whatever happens Nikopolidis believes Ketsbaia's departure should act as a catharsis. "Positive feelings in the dressing room are conditioned by results and performances," he said. "When these factors fail to appear, the atmosphere in the dressing room deteriorates. The coaching change should serve as a wake-up call for all of us and make everyone acknowledge their responsibilities. However, victory against Alkmaar won't cure all our ills. We need a considerable period of time in order to meet our high standards, be competitive and go after our goals this season. What we need now is a string of good results to boost morale."