By Robin Bairner
Paris Saint-Germain’s stuttering progress through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League via a 1-1 draw against Valencia may have made for difficult viewing, but the club's attacking players' failure to fire at least allowed the spotlight to become firmly fixed upon midfielder Blaise Matuidi, who produced an immense performance at the heart of the midfield.
He showed exactly why he is considered to be the ‘Duracell Bunny’ of Carlo Ancelotti’s display with a performance that saw him seemingly cover every blade of grass as les Parisiens fought off the advances of the Spaniards. If the match at Parc des Princes was reduced to a firefighting mission by the hosts, it was Matuidi who always seemed quickest to the point of danger.
| VALENCIA MUST BOUNCE BACK
Valencia leave the competition with their heads held high. Without two poor goalkeeping errors from the usually reliable Vicente Guaita in the first match, things may have been different.
The Spanish side set out to attack on Wednesday and were given hope by Jonas' stunning strike, and kept fighting despite Ezequiel Lavezzi's goal. In the end it wasn't enough and there will be huge disappointment at the inability to negotiate a tie which was there for the taking.
Now, however, Valencia must forget all that and focus their energies on qualifying for next season's competition. Failure to do so could mean more key players departing in the summer and a return to the Champions League is therefore vital.
Valencia are currently fifth in La Liga, one point behind Malaga, but their current position may even be enough as the Andalusians face a European ban next season. Real Sociedad and Betis are close behind, however, and Ernesto Valverde's side will hope to claim fourth spot to guarantee a return to the continent's premier club competition in 2013-14.
Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Such intelligence is a transferable skill, and during 2012-13 he has established himself as PSG’s most consistently excellent performer, with the exception of perhaps only Thiago Silva and, arguably, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was suspended from Wednesday’s fixture.
That the 25-year-old has established himself in the PSG squad is testimony to his indefatigable spirit; that he is now one of their most-vital cogs is a mark of his quality.
Indeed, Matuidi is perhaps the most underrated midfielder in Europe at present. His arrival in Paris came in 2011, when he joined from Saint-Etienne in a relatively understated €7.5 million deal given that Jeremy Menez was signed on the same day and attracted a good deal more press attention.
Not that a move to a big club was a surprise for the France international. Arsenal had long tracked him only to turn their attentions elsewhere, as PSG moved quickly to replace the retiring Claude Makelele.
Matuidi has a similar style about his play, only with a modern twist. While he possesses the same solid defensive attributes as the France legend, he is also capable of becoming a dynamic attacking presence and has contributed three goals to PSG’s Ligue 1 push as this side of his game continues to develop and improve.
Against Valencia, though, it was his discipline and maturity that was to be applauded. In his first Champions League season, he acted as a seasoned pro as his side came under increasing pressure, pinpointing the potential sources of danger and - more often than not - quashing them.
Between the Toulouse-born midfielder and the central defensive axis of Alex and Thiago Silva, PSG reduced Valencia to relatively few efforts on Salvatore Sirigu’s goal.
Having previously been an unsung hero for this PSG team, the world appears on the brink of discovering this vibrant midfielder. The French league leaders move into the final eight of the Champions League, and much of their success is based around this most underrated of players.
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