PSG coach Ancelotti urges players not to ease up
PARIS (AP) -Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti wants his players to forget about sitting on their first-leg lead and to dictate Valencia in the return leg of their last-16 match on Wednesday.
The Spanish team trails 2-1 and has been given little chance of prevailing at the Parc des Prince. But PSG has not reached the quarterfinals since 1995 and Ancelotti does not want any sniff of complacency creeping in.
"We have the advantage but we have to be very careful,'' Ancelotti said on Tuesday. "We will try and play our own way, with our quality and our character. We have to forget the result from the first leg.''
PSG will be without top-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Marco Verratti, who are both suspended. Ancelotti could hand David Beckham a start in central midfield alongside Blaise Matuidi.
"Either Thiago Motta will play or I have to change things and there is the possibility to use Beckham or (Clement) Chantome,'' Ancelotti said.
Ibrahimovic, who has scored 26 goals, has been masking PSG's weaknesses. When he's out of form, like in Saturday's 1-0 loss at Reims, the team seems short on options.
PSG's win in Valencia three weeks ago contrasted sharply with Saturday's poor display, which was PSG's second straight away loss to a team fighting against relegation - a worrying statistic for a club aspiring to join Europe's elite.
"When PSG plays as a team we are dangerous,'' Ancelotti said, urging greater teamwork from his collection of stars.
Ancelotti has Brazil center half Thiago Silva available again after nearly two months out with a hamstring injury, but winger Jeremy Menez has failed to shake off a sore hip and will miss the match.
"It's obviously difficult to come back and play at this level,'' Silva said through a translator. "I had a lot of treatment and it wasn't easy to spend so long without playing, but I was fully focused on coming back to play against opponents of this caliber.''
Silva reclaims the captain's armband and hopes his return brings "a bit of tranquility in these difficult moments.''
"The Champions League has a magical quality that helps you to concentrate 100 percent, which might not always be the case in the (French) league.''
His immediate task is to keep Valencia top-scorer Roberto Soldado quiet.
"He's a great striker, I follow the Spanish league closely,'' Silva said. "He has a lot of quality and is a danger for them.''
PSG has not won the French title since 1994, and aside from winning the now defunct European Cup Winners' Cup in 1996, it has not won anything in Europe. Its best Champions League result was the semifinals in 1995.
"It is important for us to reach the quarterfinals,'' Ancelotti said, urging his players to think even further ahead.
"We are still involved in all competitions, and not many teams in Europe are in our position,'' he said. "Barcelona is not in (the Spanish) Cup, Real Madrid is not challenging for the (Spanish) league (title.)''
Valencia's cause, meanwhile, may be helped by Ibrahimovic's absence - especially considering its problems in defense.
Jeremy Mathieu may fill in at center half alongside Victor Ruiz in a makeshift partnership because Adil Rami is injured and Ricardo Costa is struggling for fitness. Aly Cissokho is expected to start at left back.
"PSG have very quick players and are good on the counterattack, so we have to try and score as well as being careful,'' Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde said. "Mathieu is an option for us in the center of defense. He has already played there and I'm sure he can do well.''
Valencia slipped to 2-2 at home against city rival Levante on Saturday after conceding a late equalizer, letting escape a chance to move up into fourth place in the Spanish league and enter into the Champions League spots.
Even so, Valencia continues to show improvement under new coach Ernesto Valverde with only one loss in its past 10 league games.
"We have to score away, there is no doubt about that and we must avoid conceding a goal,'' Cissokho said. "They have got important players missing, but they also have big players that can come on, like Beckham.''
PSG's attack could see winger Ezequiel Lavezzi alongside Kevin Gameiro in a makeshift pairing.
"Gameiro is a striker, maybe he will replace Ibrahimovic,'' Ancelotti said. "We have other options for the match to put a competitive team in place. We may change the system, but Gameiro is the last striker we have available.''
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