Ancelotti and PSG face a tough test against experienced Valencia
Valencia C.F. v Paris Saint-Germain
Champions League last-16—first leg
Venue: Mestalla, Valencia
Date: February 12, 2013
Kick-Off: 20h45 (EST)
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento
Paris Saint-Germain and Valencia will meet for the first time in a competitive match on Tuesday night at the Mestalla with a place in the last eight at stake. Whilst los Che have Champions League pedigree—having reached the last 16 in two of the last three seasons—PSG are boosted by the arrival of Lucas Moura and his availability. However, the match is perhaps more notable for the fact that David Beckham will travel with the squad for the first time.
An intriguing tie, perhaps more for the storylines behind the teams than for the potential spectacle. Ernesto Valverde’s side has been built around a large contingent of French players whilst Carlo Ancelotti’s stellar squad continues to grow at a rapid pace.
No fewer than six of los Che’s players have played in Ligue 1, but only Maxwell and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have played in La Liga from PSG’s squad. Only Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jeremy Menez and veteran Sylvain Armand have experience in Champions League football outside of this season’s run with the capital club.
This was touted as the draw that PSG wanted instead of playing the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, but really, les Parisiens needed a draw against a European giant. That said, Valencia’s experience in the competition far outweighs that of the French side and the Spaniards are unbeaten in eight home games against French sides.
Both have named strong squads, the projected line ups are as follows:
Valencia: Guaita - Pereira, Rami, R Costa, Cissokho - V.Ruiz, T.Costa - Piatti/Jonas, Banega, Guardado - Soldado.
PSG: Sirigu - Jallet, Sakho, Alex, Maxwell - Verratti, Matuidi - Pastore, Menez - Lavezzi, Ibrahimovic
Champions League so far:
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.
PSG finished top of Group A with an impressive record of 15 points, which qualified them ahead of second-placed Porto and with a goal tally bettered on by Bayern, Chelsea and Real Madrid. They also only conceded one goal in the whole of the group stage.
Ernesto Valverde stepped in to steady a sinking ship when he arrived at the Mestalla at the beginning of December. Los Che were 12th in the league and had endured their worst start to the league since 1999-2000 with only 18 points from 14 games.
They now sit fifth in the table although a series of defeats to Real Madrid has put paid to their Copa del Rey hopes, including a 5-0 thumping at the Mestalla. Valverde has a contract until the end of the season and the team look much better than under previous coach Mauricio Pellegrino. Current form has seen them win two matches, draw two and lose one.
PSG’s start to 2013 has been blistering. The capital club are on a run of 10 wins in their last 11 games since they beat Porto n Group A’s final fixture in December. They have reached the last 16 of the Coupe de France as well as taken a clear, six point lead in Ligue 1 for the first time all season. Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu has set a new record for going 949 minutes without conceding a goal.
Tuesday’s defining showdown will arguably be between two of the competition’s star strikers. Valencia’s Roberto Soldado 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.
PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has two goals and five assists whilst his team were one of the highest scorers of this year’s group stage. Ibra’s creativity has been vital for the capital club, but he hasn’t found the net since October in Europe.
Both players are key for their sides and they act as the focal point of attack in similar formations. PSG have a slight advantage in that Ibrahimovic is more creative than Soldado, but both can find the net consistently. Scoring an away goal will be vital for Ancelotti’s side, whilst taking advantage of a first leg at home is a must for Valverde’s men.
Jeremy Mathieu for Valencia is injured; Aly Cissokho also a doubt after limping off injured during Valencia’s 1-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
No Thiago Silva or Thiago Motta for PSG, both players are injured. David Beckham will not play, but he has travelled with the squad.
The only previous meeting between the pair 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.
The French Connection:
Valencia won twice against Lille in Group F, stretching Valencia's unbeaten run against French sides to 17. They have not lost to a Ligue 1 club since their opening leg of the 1979/80 European Cup Winners' Cup semi-final when FC Nantes won 2-1 in France.
Los Che lifted the 2003-04 UEFA Cup at the expense of French opponents, beating Olympique de Marseille 2-0 in Gothenburg.
Valencia boast eight wins out of eight, against French teams on Spanish soil.
PSG’s record in 16 games against Spanish sides is not bad though: eight wins, three draws and five defeats (W3 D1 L3 in Spain). Last time they played in Spain they lost 2-0 at Athletic Club in the UEFA Europa League group stage in September 2011.
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