PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN VS VALENCIA C.F
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (LAST-16 2ND-LEG)
VENUE: PARC DES PRINCES
DATE: 6TH MARCH 2013
KICK-OFF: 19:45 (GMT)
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In the face of adversity, you must be prevail and that certainly appeals to Paris Saint-Germain. The humbling at the hands of Stade de Reims on Saturday afternoon was a real slap in the face. Coming up against a team who had only won one in 18 league games not only beat us, they did it comfortably as well. All credit in the world must go to them because they had a game plan which worked to a tee, yet we had no answers. Now, the pressure is really on tomorrow as we seek a place in the last-eight of the UEFA Champions League against Valencia.
Director of football Leonardo said in the aftermath of that game at the weekend, stupidly I thought, that this team was “more suited to play in Europe rather than in Ligue 1”. It is not the sort of precedent the Parisien fans want to hear who are craving a third Ligue 1 title. The weekend was a setback, but as this season has proved the domestic game in France is as competitive as it has ever been and no one can knock Reims for the win – they fully deserved it. It may be a fair argument to say that motivation was lacking on our part with this huge game with Valencia coming up tomorrow. Nevertheless, the team should always be motivated but as they have proved in the Champions League this season, they revel in these European nights.
Three weeks ago for 89 minutes, it was quite possibly the best PSG performance in a European fixture for nearly two decades. We were cruising at 2-0 in the Mestalla, played some of the most expansive football we had orchestrated all season and looked dead certainties to qualify. But, a crazy last four minutes unravelled a lot of that good work by falling asleep at a set-piece which subsequently resulted in Adil Rami scoring for Los Che before Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off and will now miss tomorrow’s game – plus the first-leg of the quarter-final, if we get there.
With Zlatan missing and also Marco Verratti due to suspension, some terrific news is that skipper Thiago Silva is back in the squad. He alongside Thiago Motta are back in contention after nearly two months out apiece and it is a welcome boost no question. Silva’s presence in central defence has been missed, not only his qualities as a defender but also as a leader. His assurance will stabilise either Alex or Mamadou Sakho who are far better off when paired alongside him. As for Thiago Motta, he has been hampered by injuries this season but he is still integral as ever. It will be interesting to see if he partners Blaise Matuidi in central midfield tomorrow or if Carlo Ancelotti opts to bring in David Beckham. He has choices in that department despite Verratti’s absence with Clement Chantome also in contention.
Zlatan being out is a massive blow and this will alter our set-up all together. Jeremy Menez could have played in his place as a false number nine but he has been ruled out due to injury. Kevin Gameiro will come in and if Ancelotti opts to go 4-4-2 as I suspect, Ezequiel Lavezzi may partner him up top with Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore operating the wings.
Leading 2-1, we know Lose Che have to score two goals and the emphasis will be on them to attack. We can absorb their pressure and rightfully hit them on the counter as we did in Spain. But, Valencia are unbeaten since we last met them and will chomping at the bit. Thankfully on our part, they will be without their centre-back pairing of Rami and Ricardo Costa.
We know that there is a golden opportunity to make history tomorrow and progess it into the last-eight of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years. We need to be professional, not to be naïve, not go gung-hoe and suss out Valencia’s mind-set in the opening 15 minutes. Our ability on the counter-attack will be a worry to them but at the same time we need to be assured at the back as they look to attack.
It has got the makings of a classic this one. Hopefully Les Parisiens swing it in our favour come the end of the night.