Paris Saint-Germain vs. Valencia C.F.
Champions League Last-16—Second Leg (2-1 on aggregate)
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris
Date: March 6, 2013
Kick-Off: 20h45 (EST)
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia)
Paris Saint-Germain and Valencia will meet for only the second time in a competitive match on Wednesday night at the Parc des Princes with a place in the last eight at stake.
The only previous occasion of course was the first leg, which the hosts won 2-1 by scoring two potentially crucial away goals. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore did the damage with French international defender Adil Rami netting a late consolation.
David Beckham was only able to watch from the stands the last time out in Spain, but this time he could be involved on the pitch if PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti sees fit.
Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde has some injury worries though as first-choice central defenders Adil Rami and Ricardo Costa have both sustained injuries since the first leg.
Jeremy Mathieu was tested there alongside Victor Ruiz in the draw with Levante and they put in a largely decent performance with the exception of a late slip from the Frenchman.
Both have named as strong a squad as possible, the potential line ups are as follows:
PSG: Sirigu - Jallet, Sakho, Thiago Silva, Maxwell - Thiago Motta, Matuidi - Pastore, Lucas Moura - Lavezzi, Menez *(since ruled out through injury).
Valencia: Guaita - Pereira, V.Ruiz, Mathieu, Cissokho - Parejo, Albelda - Feghouli, Banega, Guardado -Soldado.
Champions League so far:
PSG finished at the top of Group A with an impressive record of 15 points, which qualified them ahead of second-placed Porto.
Valencia were runners-up to Bayern Munich in a strong Group F that included PSG’s Ligue 1 rivals Lille and surprise package BATE Borisov.
Seven points separated the Spaniards from BATE in third, so it was a comfortable qualification. They lost only once in the whole group, away at Bayern Munich.
PSG’s start to 2013 has been impressive despite faltering as of late. League and Cup victories have sandwiched surprise defeats to Sochaux and Reims in the league but they still remain top of Ligue 1 by two points.
Ancelotti has done well to keep PSG focused on their football with the recent furore on and off the pitch regarding Beckham’s arrival and subsequent debut. The defeat to Reims was a huge setback though and the Italian will likely find himself under pressure with any more unwanted results. That said, they have won three of their last five matches in all competitions.
They reached the quarter finals of the Coupe de France with last week’s win over Olympique de Marseille, but have lost the six-point lead at the top of the table that they had when the sides last met.
Despite those recent defeats, PSG have kept 17 clean sheets in the league—more than any other side in Europe. So Valencia are going to find it difficult to score once, let alone twice to progress.
The capital club are also unbeaten in 22 home European matches, the last defeat being against Hapoel Tel-Aviv in November 2006. Their last seven have resulted in victories.
Although they reached the UEFA Champions League second group stage in 2000/01, this is the first home knockout-round tie PSG have been involved in since 1995. That year they made it to the semi-finals.
The odds are in their favour too. They have beaten Spanish opposition at home in their last two encounters. They beat Athletic Bilbao last season in the Europa League, and Sevilla in the same competition the year before. The capital club have won their last two home games against Spanish visitors by a score line of 4-2.
PSG have won all 13 of their UEFA matches when they have recorded a first-leg away victory. That includes European Cup Winner’s Cup, Europa League and Champions League fixtures.
Valverde had a challenge on his hands when he arrived at the Mestalla at the beginning of December. Los Che were 12th in the league, having endured their worst start to the league since 1999/2000 with only 18 points from 14 games.
They still sit fifth in the table, which is where they were when the two sides met last month, after beating Mallorca and drawing with Zaragoza and Levante in the meantime. They have won two of their last five matches in all competitions.
Interestingly, they have not lost in eight matches on French soil, despite PSG ending a 17-game unbeaten record against French sides dating back to 1980.
Valencia are in the last-16 for the second time in three years, but don’t fare well when they don’t make the most of home-field advantage. A 1-1 home draw against Schalke in 2011 saw them lose 4-2 on aggregate.
Los Che have lost three home first-leg European fixtures and gone on to lose every tie on aggregate. In 1983, they lost to Anderlecht 5-2 over two games having lost the first 2-1 at home. Most recently, they lost to Napoli in the 1993 UEFA Cup (now Europa League).
In the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura will arguably be the hosts’ most important player on Wednesday night. Blaise Matuidi’s control of the midfield will be key, but PSG need at least a goal to settle the tie.
Wednesday’s defining showdown will be between the Brazilian and Valencia’s Roberto Soldado. The Spanish international has four goals and one assist so far this season in Europe, but has not scored since a 4-2 home win over BATE in November.
He had a number of chances in the first leg and looked dangerous in tandem with Nelson Valdez. That said, both missed important opportunities and will have to be more prolific if they are to eliminate PSG.
Moura made his debut in that match, but what an impact he had. Running the game from start until his 53rd-minute substitution, he set up Javier Pastore’s crucial second goal at the Mestalla and gave the defence a torrid time.
Faced with a makeshift centre-back pairing of Jeremy Mathieu and Victor Ruiz, the 20-year-old will be looking to wreak havoc once more. In the absence of Ibrahimovic, it is possible that he lines up in a more central role alongside one of Lavezzi, Jeremy Menez or Kevin Gameiro, with two or more of the others cutting in from wide.
Moura has excelled when played out wide so far since his arrival, but he has also shown that he is capable of playing centrally. The Swede’s absence will allow Ancelotti to go for a more direct approach, possibly favouring Menez and Moura’s direct styles of play in the middle with Lavezzi and Pastore out wide.
Soldado though is the focal point of the Valencia attack, not to mention captain that when David Albelda is not present, his success against Thaigo Silva, Mamadou Sakho and possible Alex, will be key to the hopes of Valverde’s side.
Ibrahimovic of course is suspended following his late red card at the Mestalla, but midfielder Marco Verratti also misses out after accumulating too many bookings. Jeremy Menez was a late withdrawal through injury.
Thiago Motta is fit and should be available for selection again after injury and so too is captain Thiago Silva.
For Valencia, Ricardo Costa and goal scorer Rami are injured. Jonathan Viera and Juan Bernat have also not travelled.
PSG’s Thiago Silva and Blaise Matuidi can’t afford another booking this week or they will miss the potential first quarter final along with Ibrahimovic, who has seen his ban from the first leg incident extended by a further match.
Neither can Valencia's Antonio Barragan, Tino Costa or goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, who are also on yellow cards.
The only previous meeting between the pair, prior to the first leg, was in the Emirates Cup back in 2007 at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. PSG won 3-0 thanks to goals from Amara Diane, David Ngog and Peguy Luyindula.
Mamadou Sakho and Sylvain Armand are the only two PSG players still present from that match while David Albelda is the sole survivor of a much-changed Valencia team.
Last time out, PSG won 2-1 thanks to first-half goals from Lavezzi and Pastore with Los Che pulling one back late on through Rami before Ibrahimovic saw red.
The French Connection:
Valencia lifted the 2003/04 UEFA Cup at the expense of French opponents, beating Olympique de Marseille 2-0 in Gothenburg.
PSG’s record in 16 games against Spanish sides is not bad though: eight wins, three draws and five defeats (W5 D2 L1 in France).
Les Rouge et Bleu’s 2-1 first leg win ended Valencia 17-match unbeaten run against French opposition, including a double over Lille in this year’s competition. Their last defeat was to Nantes in 1980 when les Canaris won 2-1.
Los Che have travelled to France eight times since then, winning four and drawing the others. They last played in France in December when they beat Lille 1-0 thanks to a Jonas penalty.
PSG’s most prestigious meeting with a Spanish side was the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final, against FC Barcelona in Rotterdam. They lost 1-0 to a Ronaldo penalty.
PSG sporting director Leonardo played 71 games for Valencia between 1991 and 1993 and scored six goals.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic spent 2009/10 in Spain with FC Barcelona and won the league title and Spanish Super Cup. In that time though he did not face Valencia.
Adil Rami made 129 Ligue 1 appearances for Lille between 2007 and 2011.
Jeremy Mathieu played for Sochaux between 2000 and 2005 before moving to Toulouse FC where he played until 2009.
Aly Cissokho played for Olympique Lyonnais between 2009 and 2012 before signing for Valencia last summer.
Tino Costa played for French lower division sides RC Paris, Pau FC and FC Sete before signing for Montpellier in 2008.
Ricardo Costa spent the first six months of 2010 on loan with Lille.
Sofiane Feghouli played for Grenoble between 2005 and 2010.
*Stats thanks to UEFA.com