Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Valencia vs PSG: Parisiens to reign in Spain or feel some Champions League pain?

Tonight's the night we've all been waiting for, one of the highlights of the year, the big one.

Yes it's Shrove Tuesday, an opportunity to gorge yourself on yummy pancakes sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with lemon juice. In fact just writing it down is making me hungry.

Paris Saint-Germain also have their biggest game of the season to date this evening, the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Valencia. Whether they manage to batter the opposition or end up feeling flat as a pancake remains to be seen as, on paper, the sides appear to be quite evenly matched.

"I don't think we're the favourites because this round is totally open," said Carletto, who probably likes his mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes on his pancakes.

"Valencia are playing well again – they have well-organised and talented players. It's going to be an open game, a good show. I don't think it'll be a physical match but a tactical one.

"Both teams are compact. I think it's true PSG are good on the counterattack but our objective is to play football, not just counterattack. This is a great test for us to play here."

Not surprisingly, the rested Ibrahimovic, Matuidi and new dad Mamadou Sakho are likely to be restored to the PSG starting line-up for the match at the Mestella. I'd have thought the only question for Carletto is whether to start Lucas or Menez behind Zlatan - Jezza has more experience and scored on Friday night, so may get the nod.

As L'Equipe points out today, Valencia, who are fifth in La Liga, have experience and quality running through the spine of their team, from former Lille defender Adil Rami, to enigmatic Argentinean midfielder Ever Banega and goal machine Robert Soldado, who returns from suspension tonight and will be looking to add to his 17 goals this season. Missing will be a familiar face to Ligue 1 fans, ex-Lyon full-back Aly Cissokho, who is injured.

"It's always a good time to play a match like this – we're doing well right now," said Los Che coach Ernesto Valverde.

We're high on confidence and this match offers us opportunities that we must make the most of. They have great strikers and attack with full force. Having possession doesn't mean constant danger; if we do that, it doesn't mean we will have PSG under control."

Indeed, our counter-attacking skills will probably be quite handy on a night where we're likely to come under quite a lot of pressure. Despite topping our group we shouldn't forget that our away form in Europe is usually pretty rancid: in the game that probably offers the best comparison to tonight's, away to Porto, we took an absolute pounding and were lucky to get away with a 1-0 defeat.

I'd be content with a similar result tonight, though an away goal would be rather nice too. Allez Paris!


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