From Paris,with money

Big spending PSG hope to make Champions League quarters for first time since ‘95

Written by Associated Press | Paris | Published: March 6, 2013 12:32 am

Paris Saint-Germain’s inconsistency in the French league has yet to impact its Champions League campaign as the big spenders hold a 2-1 lead ahead of Wednesday’s return leg in the last 16 against Valencia.

PSG has not reached the Champions League quarterfinals since 1995 and will be favored to progress,despite coping without top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic,who is suspended.

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. 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.

PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti refused to criticise his players for their poor showing against Reims and said the loss does not change his plans for Valencia.

“I don’t think so,’’ the Italian said. “Wednesday’s match is important,that’s true,but we’ve already prepared for it.’’

Ancelotti has Brazil center half Thiago Silva available again after nearly two months out with a hamstring injury,but winger Jeremy Menez is doubtful with a sore hip and sat out Monday’s training.

PSG has not won the league since 1994,and aside from winning the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996,it has not won anything in Europe.

Valencia’s cause,meanwhile,may be helped by Ibrahimovic’s absence — especially considering its problems in defense.

Jeremy Mathieu may have to 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.

“We will try and play more intelligently than we did in the first game,’’ Mathieu said. “Paris is very strong at the back and they have some really quick players up front. We will have to be careful.’’

TWO GOALS A MINIMUM

Even though Valencia has to win — and must also score at least two goals — Mathieu cautions against all-out attack.

“PSG lets the rival have possession and looks to counterattack,’’ Mathieu said. “We can come back but we have to be more intelligent than in Mestalla,where we went forward a lot and in the end PSG took advantage.’’

Valencia slipped to a 2-2 draw at home against city rival Levante on Saturday after conceding a late equaliser,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 (David) Beckham.’’

With Marco Verratti suspended,Ancelotti has to decide whether to play Beckham or Thiago Motta alongside Blaise Matuidi,while Ezequiel Lavezzi could start up front with Kevin Gameiro.

tough ask for Celtic

TURIN: Holding a 3-0 lead from the away leg,it seems only a total collapse by Juventus against Celtic can prevent the Italian team from booking a place in the Champions League quarterfinals. Juventus is expected to finish off the job at home in the return leg of its last-16 matchup on Wednesday,and the players have been urging against complacency.

“There’s still a lot to do,we mustn’t fool ourselves that qualification is already in our pockets,’’ defender Giorgio Chiellini said. “I think the 3-0 win in the away leg was a great performance from the squad,but there’s still a whole game to play.

Chiellini could miss the game after sitting out training with a recurrence of an ankle injury he picked up last month. He could be replaced by Federico Peluso who made his Champions League debut in the first leg.

Celtic is without teenage striker Tony Watt,who injured his foot in training. Midfielder Scott Brown and defender Mikael Lustig are also out injured but Charlie Mulgrew could feature after recovering from a muscle problem.

Assistant coach Johan Mjallby knows Celtic has a mammoth task ahead of it but believes his players can bow out with their heads held high if they maintain their positive attitude from the first leg,which saw them have 10 shots on target.

“What we can take heart from is that when it came to the first leg we created a lot of chances and we need to be brave tomorrow night and make sure we play good attacking football,’’ Mjallby said. “Obviously Juventus have a healthy lead and we have a mountain to climb,but we have to believe that we can do it.

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