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Malouda sets sights on last four

After a terrific season, Florent Malouda tells uefa.com that he is looking to break Olympique Lyonnais's quarter-final duck against visitors AC Milan tonight.

Olympique Lyonnais manager Gérard Houllier said earlier this season that his team would become even stronger once the players realised how they good they were. The comment was not aimed at one person in particular, but Florent Malouda seems to have taken note.

Marauding display
The Guyana-born winger was a solid performer during his first two years at the Stade Gerland but has taken his game to a new level under Houllier, emerging as one of Lyon's most potent attackers. Malouda is also versatile and highlighted his growing importance in the 5-0 aggregate win against PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round. Having filled in immaculately at left-back following an injury to Cris in the first leg, he turned in a marauding wing display in the return to help avenge last season's painful quarter-final defeat by the Dutch side.

'Attacking flair'
"We showed more maturity and cool than a year ago," Malouda told uefa.com. "In the first match we had to dig in and defend, then we got the opportunity to show our attacking flair at home. The most important factor is that we felt in control throughout." Houllier will have taken a number of positives from the tie, not least Malouda's adaptability. "I'm comfortable at Lyon and I feel like I'm growing with the club," said the 25-year-old, who recently extended his contract until 2010. "I regard myself as a winger but if the coach needs me to switch roles for the good of the team, I'm happy to do it."

'Great knowledge'
Malouda is particularly pleased to be playing for a manager of Houllier's experience. The French international said: "He has great knowledge of European football and working with him has given us more confidence. These days we believe in our ability and we know we can impose our style no matter who we are playing."

'We all believe'
Lyon's conviction is likely to be severely tested by AC Milan in the quarter-finals, but Malouda is confident of reaching the last four at the third time of asking. "In the last two seasons, people told us we'd been handed favourable draws but it turned out that [FC] Porto and PSV weren't so easy after all," he said. "We know Milan will be tough but we feel we're stronger than ever and we all believe we can do it. I hope we do in any case, because I'm fed up of missing out on semi-finals."

Juninho regret
With influential playmaker Juninho Pernambucano suspended for Wednesday's home first leg, Lyon will be relying on Malouda to provide an extra creative spark. "It's a real shame that Juninho won't be playing because he wins so many games for us," Malouda continued. "We'll all need to give a bit more to compensate for his absence, but if you want to go a long way in Europe you need to have more than eleven players."

Houllier challenge
Malouda certainly seems primed for the challenge. The former EA Guingamp forward, often criticised for his mediocre scoring record, is in top form after finding the net three times in Lyon's last three matches. But Houllier continues to demand more from the talented left-footer. "He still doesn't realise how dangerous he can be," said the one-time France coach. "He can eliminate opponents so easily, sometimes he needs to be more selfish. Today he is international class. I want him to be world class." Given Malouda's current rate of progress, it may not be long before he makes that step.