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Cocu wary of old team-mate

Phillip Cocu will keep one eye on Javier Saviola as PSV Eindhoven face AS Monaco FC.

By Brian Brownstein

PSV Eindhoven midfield player Phillip Cocu believes former team-mate Javier Saviola is AS Monaco FC's main threat ahead of the clubs' UEFA Champions League knockout meeting.

Tight leash
The Dutch international played with Saviola at FC Barcelona and rates the diminutive forward extremely highly. The 23-year-old Argentinian has already scored four goals in Europe's premier competition for Monaco this season and Cocu knows the striker will have to be kept on a tight leash if PSV are to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

'Exceptional dribbler'
"Saviola is someone we will really have to watch, because he can score a goal at any moment despite not really being a No9," he told uefa.com. "I see him more like a second striker, because he sees the space in which to go and receives the ball so well. He can then turn in a small area because he's very quick and an exceptional dribbler, leaving him time to run at defenders. Best of all though, he makes scoring goals look very easy."

Massive signing
Great things were expected of Saviola when he joined Cocu at Barcelona for €25 million in June 2001. Spoken of as a cross between Pelé and Diego Maradona, the prolific striker arrived from Argentina's CA River Plate with a fearsome reputation. However, despite scoring 44 goals in 105 games for the club over three seasons, he joined Monaco on a season-long loan in the summer.

Baffling decision
Cocu is still baffled that the Primera División leaders let him go. He said: "I was surprised when Barcelona sent him out on loan because last year he played very well and scored a lot of important goals. For me he was very good at Barcelona."

No repeats
Despite the dangers posed by the likes of Saviola, Cocu, 34, is confident PSV will defeat Monaco. The Eredivisie leaders lost at home and drew away to the principality club in the group stage of the competition last season, yet Cocu is positive there will be no repeat performance this time around.

Impressive form
He said: "We know we have the ability to beat them. They are a good team and it will be a difficult game, but it's over two legs and we have a chance. If we show the good form we are showing now then we'll go into the game with a lot of confidence.

Patience counts
"We are very organised, which should negate the threat they pose on the counterattack, while we are very patient - a quality you need to succeed in the Champions League," he added. "We have the ability to play attacking football while remaining organised. We must be confident we can beat them."

Monaco's footsteps
This season marks PSV's debut in the knockout stages and Cocu wants to make the most of it. He believes his team can get past Monaco and progress even further in the competiton. The Ligue 1 club reached the final last season and he sees no reason why PSV cannot follow in their footsteps.

Ultimate goal
"The Monaco game is just the first step. As one of the smaller teams, they got to the final last year and that just makes me think that PSV can also get to the same stage this time around," he said. "Qualifying for the last 16 is great. However, we mustn't be complacent. We've done well but we want to go further."

Phillip Cocu's personal website is at www.icons.com