One club is simply happy to get here, while the other sees this as the first chance to cement the beginning of European domination. Valencia have been doing well lately in the league, but it might seem that Paris Saint-Germain and their role of overpaid stars might be a bit too much to overcome.
The first question on everyone’s lips? David Beckham. No, he won’t be playing, at least not in the first leg. Beckham probably won’t be starting in any of the UCL matches, if PSG do get further than this. Carlo Ancelotti has his favorites in the middle, be it Matuidi, Verratti and Thiago Motta, not really in love with putting players in wider positions.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is obviously the key man in this match. Not necessarily by scoring, but simply by dominating the match. Ibra’s abilities allows a team to play defensively while still knowing they have a player who can handle double marking without too much problems. He has scored in three of the last four matches for PSG, but his assist numbers, 5 in the Champions League this season, are just as important. PSG rarely score from outside the box, which means Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi will need to play very close to Ibrahimovic. Two problems are injury problems – Thiago Silva won’t be playing, while Thiago Motta is also highly doubtful.
For Valenica, it’s about relying on their recent form since Ernesto Valverde took over in December, erasing what happened against Real Madrid in three matches. Valencia managed a draw against Barcelona in the Mestalla just over a week ago, and haven’t lost to anyone but Real Madrid in 2013. Roberto Soldado with four goals in the competition this season and 14 in his last 14 Champions League starts is also encouraging, although he hasn’t scored in Valencia’s last four matches. Another encouragement for Valencia is their home record in the competition, going unbeaten in their last nine match at the Mestalla.
Prediction – Valencia can play some fine football at home, but PSG, unlike Manchester City and their UCL failings, are made of stronger stuff, and have a better manager, not to mention the best striker in the world. Despite Valencia’s record against French sides (not losing to one in 90 minutes since 1980), it looks like a home draw is the most they can look forward to against a strong French side.
Projected lineups – Valencia: Guaita; Cissokho, Costa, Rami, Pereira; Ruiz, Acosta; Jonas, Banega, Feghouli; Soldado. PSG – Sirigu; Jallet, Alex, Sakho, Maxwell; Verratti, Matuidi, Pastore, Lucas Moura, Lavezzi; Ibrahimovic.