Olympiakos midfielder Daniel Podence has admitted that the team appears set to fail its primary target of winning trophies this season, despite a promising debut campaign in Greece from the Portuguese.
Podence arrived in Piraeus from Sporting for €3m last summer and has become a key figure in the side under Portuguese coach Pedro Martins. Podence has started 21 of the team’s 24 league games and has contributed eight goals so far in all competitions, making it the most prolific campaign of the 23-year-old’s career so far.
The goal tally was boosted by a double in Olymapiakos’ most recent victory, during which they beat Aris 4-1 last weekend. The match was especially important for the club’s fans due to it coinciding with Olympiakos celebrating their 94th birthday, and Podence said he was happy that his two goals helped marked the occasion.
“It was a very important date for the club and for those who love Olympiakos,” he said. “We are very happy to be able to provide the win because it is appropriate for this team. It has won a lot in its history and we have to honour the club with more victories. That's why we are here and we are very pleased to have done it.”
“Always room for improvement”
Podence’s ambition comes through when he is asked to assess his first season in Greece. Although the midfielder has become an integral part of a team which has enjoyed some fine moments – Olympiakos eliminated Milan from the Europa League – it appears that trophies will elude the side this season.
Olympiakos currently occupy second place in the Greek Super League, trailing PAOK by seven points. Chasing the leaders has been an almost impossible task for Martins’ side, with PAOK undefeated and racking up 21 victories from their 24 matches during a campaign in which they have dropped just six points.
Allied to Olympiakos’ surprise loss to Lamia in the Greek Cup last month, it appears that the team – which also includes Portuguese goalkeeper José Sá, defender Roderick Miranda and attacker Gil Dias – will end the season empty-handed. It is a disappointing scenario for Greece’s most successful club, who had won seven back-to-back championships before AEK Athens won the title last season.
“Olympiakos is here to win titles,” Podence said. “So, the championship is the goal. I came to a team that can compete and win titles. This year we did not. Last year was difficult for Olympiakos and there have also been difficulties this year. But next year the championship will be ours
“Certainly, this first year has been positive for me, but one can always improve. And there is always room for improvement due to the fact that you may have left positive impressions, but the most important thing is the team. This team can win the title. Indeed, we have worked hard to make it happen and we have not been able to manage it. But we will get there.”
Next up for Olympiakos, a trip to fierce rivals Panathinaikos on Sunday. Pedro Martins’ side have a huge 25-point advantage over their opponents in the league, partly thanks to winning 10 of their last 11 league games, but the former Vitória de Guimarães boss knows how vital the match will be on many levels.
“It is a unique game because of the importance it has to our fans,” Martins told reporters. “We have not given up and we want wins in all the games. We will try to get the three points in this game because we understand the importance it has for the fans, but as professionals we will be demanding to win all the games left.”
Leaders PAOK, who are aiming to win their first title in 34 years, also have strong Portuguese representation, with experienced midfielder Vieirinha serving as club captain and striker Sérgio Oliveira recently joining on-loan from Porto to help with the goalscoring.
By Sean Gillen