Javier Saviola has warned Malaga that they will have to be at their best to overcome a ‘tricky’ Champions League tie with Porto.
The Costa del Sol outfit travel out to Portugal a week on Tuesday for the first leg of their Last 16 clash, during what is their debut season in Europe’s premier competition.
“They’ll be very tough opponents. I was fortunate enough to play in Portugal for three years and I really know what they’re about, how competitive they are,” former Benfica man Saviola told FIFA’s official website in an interview today.
“It’ll be a very tricky tie and we’ll have to be very focused right from the first whistle, and not make any mistakes.
“Let’s hope we can put in great performances like we did against Milan and Zenit and play the same way.”
Saviola was asked of Manuel Pellegrini’s impact at the club this season, with the background of financial uncertainty to contend with.
“He’s a Coach who really communicates with his players, he’s a very straightforward person who says what he thinks. He wants his players to use the ball well and try to combine with their teammates.
“He really likes good football and having him there is a huge boost for us players who like to get the ball down and play.
“The issues this summer? The coaching staff did a really great job of getting all the non-sporting problems off our minds and helping us to keep focused on competing.
“They motivated us to only think about football and that, as well as the squad’s togetherness, were the two key reasons we came through all that.”
Malaga sit in the Champions League qualification positions in the League and are so far unbeaten in Europe this season.
“We’ve assembled a very solid side and we’re managing to play nice football and get good results. It’s a shame we recently got knocked out of the Copa [del Rey] by Barca, but we are in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.
“Not many people expected us to get that far as we were in a very tough group, drawn alongside very experienced teams in Milan, Zenit and Anderlecht.
“But we never hid and we always tried to play attractive football, the type people like to see. We’re in the top four in La Liga too, so we can’t complain.
“The team’s feeling good, feeling confident and so far things are going better than even we expected.”
The 31-year-old former River Plate, Barcelona and Real Madrid man was asked to reflect on his experiences at his various past clubs and pick out the teammates that left the greatest impression on him.
“I think that I had the best understanding with [Pablo] Aimar. I was with him at River and Benfica, he’s the player I had most affinity with and hopefully I’ll get the chance to work with him again in the future.
“We could find each other almost instinctively on the pitch as we just knew where the other would be, and he’s the one player I’d always want to have play alongside me.
“There were other teammates that really wowed me too, such as Ronaldinho, [Hernan] Crespo and [Patrick] Kluivert. To be honest, I’ve played with some truly great players and I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Saviola was also at the Camp Nou when Lionel Messi was beginning to emerge on to the scene.
“When we used to watch him in training he’d astonish us all with the things he could do: the speed he’d get his shots off, the pace he could run with the ball, how humble he was and the fact he had so much quality.
“He’s always had his feet on the ground, ever since he was a boy, and I think that’s really worked in his favour in the long term.
“But none of us imagined he’d come so far in such a short space of time. And there’s so much left! He’s so young and he’s already won the Ballon d’Or four times.”