Having secured a 2-1 win in Valencia, Paris Saint-Germain will look to finish the job and secure a place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League back in the French capital.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side will feel they should be in an even better position, however, having been leading 2-0 heading into injury time in the opening encounter before Adil Rami pulled a goal back for Valencia. The fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was also sent off in the final minutes and will miss the second leg will only have added to the sour aftertaste from what was otherwise an ideal away performance, not to mention providing Valencia with renewed belief.
Since the opening leg, PSG have had a poor run domestically, losing two of their three Ligue 1 games, including a shock 1-0 loss at relegation-threatened Stade de Reims on Saturday. Director of football Leonardo even said following the result that PSG were better suited to playing in Europe. Ancelotti believes that it is a challenging for any side to compete on multiple fronts.
“It's difficult to be competitive in all competitions,” he said, according to UEFA’s website. “Barcelona haven't managed to do it – they're out of the cup – nor have Real Madrid, who are off the pace in the league. We're coming to a very delicate part of the season, but I trust in our capabilities.”
With Italian playmaker Marco Verratti joining Ibrahimovic on the suspended list, there is anticipation that David Beckham will make his first Champions League appearance for PSG. The January signing came off the bench to replace Verratti on Saturday, although Ancelotti may opt for the more defensively-sound Clement Chantome.
Valencia are locked in a closely fought battle for the final Champions League place in La Liga, but have not helped their cause by drawing their last two matches, against Real Zaragoza and Levante. Coach Ernesto Valverde concedes his side weren’t at their best in the first-leg of the tie, but believes his side have the quality to overturn their deficit, even on the road.
“Valencia didn't play particularly great in the first leg, despite our intentions, but that's also because of PSG,” he said. “We're really going to do everything to qualify—nothing is written, so we believe in our chances. It's normal PSG are the favorites but we'll give 100% to stay in the competition.”
Central defenders Ricardo Costa and Adil Rami are both absent through injury meaning that Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu is likely to again fill in alongside Victor Ruiz.
Paris Saint-Germain (probable)
D: Jallet, Alex, Sakho, Maxwell
M: Matuidi, Chantome
Lucas Moura, Lavezzi, Pastore
D: Pereira, Ruiz, Mathieu, Guardado
M: Parejo, T. Costa
Feghouli, Banega, Jonas
Prediction: The loss of Ibrahimovic is a significant blow to PSG, who rely heavily on the Swede. Kevin Gameiro is a willing but limited deputy and much will rely on Argentinian Ezequiel Lavezzi. But the fact is that PSG do not have to go looking to attack and can be pragmatic in the knowledge that Valencia need to score twice.
That should suit PSG to a tee and the pace on break of Lavezzi, as well as Brazilian Lucas Moura, coupled with the creative talents of Javier Pastore should allow the home side to have success hitting their vulnerable opponents on the counter-attack.
Valencia have enough quality going forward to also get on the scoresheet, but the deficit is likely to prove too much to overcome.
Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Valencia
Where to watch: The second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie will kick-off from the Parc des Princes at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.