PARIS — Leonardo’s assertion that Paris St Germain (PSG) are made for the Champions League, but not for low-key Ligue 1 matches could backfire today if they do not show a dramatic improvement against Valencia in a last-16 second leg.
Sports director Leonardo explained PSG’s embarrassing 1-0 league defeat at battling 10-man Stade Reims on Saturday by saying: “Maybe we have a team made for Europe, based on talent and passing quality, not for that kind of game.”
PSG indeed looked a different side from the one who beat Valencia 2-1 away in the first leg and their chances of success in today’s home game have been hurt by suspensions to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Marco Verratti.
The Ligue l leaders’ defeat by Reims was the second in a row against a lowly team after they were humbled 3-2 by Sochaux before back-to-back wins against arch rivals Olympique Marseille in the league and French Cup.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti blamed a bad pitch at Reims for the loss, but there will be no excuses today on their Parc des Princes turf, where 37-year-old David Beckham could make his first Champions League appearance since 2010 with AC Milan. The former England captain, who signed a short-term deal with PSG in January, could start the match unless Ancelotti decides to field Clement Chantome or Thiago Motta returns from injury.
The Italian coach is likely to change his centre-back pairing with captain Thiago Silva in the running to feature for the first time in more than seven weeks after recovering from a thigh problem.
The Brazilian’s return would be a boost to PSG, who could have all but sealed their last-eight qualification in Valencia if they had made more of their domination before allowing the Spaniards to pull a goal back late on.
Valencia are missing usual centre-backs Adil Rami and Ricardo Costa.
France international Rami, who netted their 90th-minute goal in the first leg, is still recovering from a muscle strain in his left thigh.