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Ten to watch in the UEFA Cup

Published: Tuesday 17 February 2009, 10.30CET
As the UEFA Cup resumes with the Round of 32, takes its pick of ten players likely to catch the eye, including Olympiacos CFP sensation Diogo Luis Santo and €30m man Danny at holders FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
Ten to watch in the UEFA Cup
How far can Diogo take Olympiacos? ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 17 February 2009, 10.30CET

Ten to watch in the UEFA Cup

As the UEFA Cup resumes with the Round of 32, takes its pick of ten players likely to catch the eye, including Olympiacos CFP sensation Diogo Luis Santo and €30m man Danny at holders FC Zenit St. Petersburg.

As the UEFA Cup resumes with the Round of 32, takes its pick of ten players likely to catch the eye.

David Beckham (AC Milan)
With the likes of Pato, Ronaldinho, Kaká and Andrea Pirlo in the ranks Milan are the star attraction in the Round of 32, but the firmanent is shining even brighter since the addition of David Beckham. The 33-year-old, who is on loan from LA Galaxy, has surprised many with his impact in Serie A having left the European scene two years ago. A UEFA Champions League winner with Manchester United FC in 1998/99, he will be hoping to add the UEFA Cup to his long list of honours.

Danny (FC Zenit St. Petersburg)
Zenit have a ready-made replacement for Andrei Arshavin in their ranks with Russian record signing Danny looking to emulate his predecessor by leading the club to UEFA Cup glory. A €30m summer signing from FC Dynamo Moskva, he dazzled on his debut by scoring the winner against Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup in August and, after settling quickly into the side, will be looking to hit the ground running in his first full campaign, starting on Wednesday against VfB Stuttgart.

Diogo Luis Santo (Olympiacos CFP)
After missing out on a place in the UEFA Champions League, Olympiacos are determined to make their mark on the UEFA Cup and with striker Diogo in brilliant form they could do just that. The Greek titleholders beat a host of top clubs to the 21-year-old Brazilian's signature last summer and his reputation has blossomed since. Strong in the air and with excellent technique, Diogo has taken Greek football by storm and impressed in Europe too, notably with a two-goal match-winning performance in a 5-1 rout of SL Benfica in the group stage.

Yoann Gourcuff (FC Girondins de Bordeaux)
Zinédine Zidane took Bordeaux all the way to the final in 1996 and they could go far again thanks to the sparkling form of playmaker Yoann Gourcuff. The 22-year-old has long drawn comparisons to the great Zizou and showed just why with a series of commanding performances during the UEFA Champions League group stage. With Milan set to recall Gourcuff from his loan spell at the end of the season, could he, like Zidane, be set for a final swansong?

Vágner Love (PFC CSKA Moskva)
Vágner Love scored in CSKA's UEFA Cup final win against Sporting Clube de Portugal four years ago and his competition-leading eight goals so far this term have got the club's fans dreaming of silverware again. The first leg against Aston Villa FC will be CSKA's first competitive game under new coach Zico, and with Love eager to force his way back into the Brazilian national side as well, the 24-year-old has plenty of reasons to impress.

Adrian Mutu (ACF Fiorentina)
Mutu scored six times in Fiorentina's run to the semi-finals last season and will be hoping to take his side one stage further this time around. Voted Romanian Player of the Year for the fourth time in December, the 30-year-old only found the net once in the Viola's UEFA Champions League group-stage campaign, but has brought the best out of prolific strike partner Alberto Gilardino.

Ivica Olić (Hamburger SV)
Olić may be on his way to FC Bayern München in the summer, but is intent on signing off on a high as HSV chase a UEFA Cup and Bundesliga double. The 29-year-old Croatian has had an outstanding campaign, with four goals in the UEFA Cup already, and his battling, tenacious style make him a firm favourite with the HSV faithful despite his imminent departure. "HSV is all that matters until the end of the season," Olić said. "I will give 100 per cent until the final whistle of the final game."

David Villa (Valencia CF)
The 27-year-old Spanish international needs no introduction – except in the UEFA Cup this season where he has been restricted to a single appearance as a substitute. With the competition now past the group stage, expect to see Villa unleashed sooner rather than later. With a return of 17 goals in 21 Liga games his inclusion would put Valencia right up among the favourites to reclaim the crown they won in 2004.

Axel Witsel (R. Standard de Liège)
It is no wonder some of Europe's biggest clubs are tracking Witsel, who was voted Belgian Player of the Year in January just a week after his 20th birthday. The dynamic, technically gifted attack-minded midfielder played in every minute as Standard progressed from a tough Group C and his nonchalant style has fooled more than one opponent.

Ashley Young (Aston Villa FC)
Young was described as no less than a "genius" by his manager Martin O'Neill after scoring twice, including the 90th-minute winner, in victory against Everton FC in December. Even so, the 23-year-old winger is yet to fully deliver on his considerable promise – a frightening prospect for Europe's defences. If Villa are to progress the England international's pace, poise and passing will be key. His crossing sets him apart; only Cesc Fàbregas set up more goals in the Premier League last season.

Last updated: 18/02/09 15.15CET

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