Champions League Tactical Analysis: Valencia vs PSG

With the Champions League returning to TV screens this week, we take a closer look at how Valencia will suit up tactically against the might of PSG....
Football fans around the world would have been eagerly awaiting this week as it marks the return of Europe's premier club competition which has some truly titanic clashes that will see Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid go up against the red half of Manchester at the Santiago Bernabeu. While the world may be focussed on that match, Valencia or PSG will look to get their job done when they meet at the Mestalla stadium in Spain for their Round of 16 clash. While the odds may favour PSG to come away with a victory, Valencia have proved that they are not meant to be taken lightly and will look to obtain a favourable result to take to Paris for the second leg.


How Valencia Attack
How PSG Defend
Valencia have not been exactly one of Europe's free scoring sides as they have managed only 54 goals from 34 games played this season. Los Che have been heavily dependant on their prolific frontman Roberto Soldado for the goals. The Spaniard has notched up 17 goals so far in all competitions.

Soldado's act is supported by the trio of Sofiane Feghouli, Andres Guardado and Ever Banega who plays just behind the striker. With Daniel Parejo assigned to protect the back four along with Tino Costa, the onus would be on the front four to take the game to PSG.

Valverde's arrival has seen Andres Guardado being shifted to a full-back position and using Jonas in a wide role to gain more solidity in the midfield.

Banega will play a vital role in Valencia's forays into the attacking third of the pitch as the Argentine tends to work in tandem with Soldado and the wide forwards by interchanging passes with them. The former Atletico Madrid man also is known for his late runs into the 18-yard area which the PSG defence will have to deal with accordingly. His performance against Barcelona earlier this month highlights his importance in this Valencia outfit.

The full-backs, Joao Pereira on the right and Guardado on the left will seek to make overlapping runs on the flanks to open up crossing opportunities for Soldado to get on the end of. 

Be it attack or defence, PSG have one of the most formidable units in both areas of the pitch - defence and attack.

They will look to maintain that tag when they make their trip to Spain. Ancelotti has always been an advocate of keeping things compact in the middle of the pitch. The defensive duties would primarily lie with the duo of Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi in the middle of a three man midfield.
Given that the full-backs will tend to be high up the pitch in case of a counter-attack, Verratti and Matuidi will need to move vertically to provide cover for the spaces left by the full-backs to allow the latter to return to their positions.
Carlo Ancelotti's defence looks a potent force even without their star defender Thiago Silva. With the industry of Maxwell and Christophe Jallet, coupled with the power of Alex and Mamadou Sakho, they will seek to shut out the threat of Soldado and Banega.

The aerial strength that the defence possesses will be key against Soldado who is a good attacker of crosses. The central defensive pairing of Alex and Sakho have won an average of 2 and 3 aerial duels per game which can only tilt the tie statistically in PSG's favour.


How Valencia defend
How PSG Attack
Valencia have not been good defensively this season and this fact can tip the balance in favour of PSG. The Spanish side have let in 45 goals in all competitions with an average of 1.32 goals conceded per match.

Daniel Parejo will be charged with the task of cleaning up in midfield alongwith Tino Costa.

The defence of Pereira, Rami, Ricardo Costa and Guardado will need to summon all their powers of concentration if they are to hold their own against an attack that has Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Rami and Costa especially will have to deal with the threat of Ibrahimovic aerially. The centre-halves can take heart from the fact that they have each won an average of 2 aerial duels per game.

With Feghouli and Jonas being asked to track back whenever possible, the Spaniards will seek to choke the supply line of Marco Verratti, Javier Pastore and Blaise Matuidi along with dealing with PSG's fullbacks who will no doubt be bombing forward at every opportunity.
With an attack line that on its day can blow an opposition away, PSG will be aiming to do just that against Valencia. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic capable of taking on an entire defence on his own, it is just left to the fan's imagination what he can do when his support cast has Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jeremy Menez, Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore.

Verratti will be pulling the strings from a deeper midfield position with Pastore, Lavezzi and Menez interchanging positions at will to cause havoc amongst the opposition defence.

A feature of Ancelotti's stints with Milan and Chelsea is his preference for using full-backs to provide width. It will be a similar case as Maxwell and Jallet will be the ones who will be charged with stretching play and providing crosses to their colossal target man Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic's record in front of goal is a known fact. However he also is an equally good provider as he tends to drop into a midfield position sometimes to create play. His assists tally (5) are greater than his goals in the Champions League which is just an indicator of the versatility that the Swede brings to this team.
With Matuidi and Verratti not being goal shy themselves, Valencia will have a job at hand keeping this PSG side from disturbing the scoreline.



Strengths –

Valencia: The Spaniards' only chance of outsmarting PSG is to look to outscore them. With an excellent goalpoacher in Roberto Soldado, Valencia have to make sure that he is supplied adequately from the midfield and flanks to trouble the PSG backline. The Mestalla side are known for attacking set-pieces well with nearly 41% of their total goal tally having come from dead ball situations. With an attack that consists of the wily Banega supplemented by the industrious Feghouli and Jonas, Los Che will have to use that to their advantage if they stand any chance of getting a favourable result at home.

PSG: A glance at the team sheet will tell you what the strength of this formidable PSG side is, attack. However a glance at the stats reveal that they have conceded just 16 goals in 30 matches in Ligue 1 and Champions League which highlights their defensive stability to keep oppositions at bay after taking the lead.

Weaknesses –

Valencia: The fact that Ernesto Valverde's men have let in 45 goals in 34 games in all competitions is a testament to their porous defence. Their task will be made no easier when they are tasked to keep the likes of Ibrahimovic at bay who on his day can run the show single-handedly. The team also has been inconsistent when it comes to playing at home. The numbers tell you that the team has made the Mestalla a fortress in the Champions League with six wins and three draws scoring 28 goals in the process. It also seemed that Los Che brought some of their Champions League form in La Liga when they went toe-to-toe with Barcelona in a 1-1 draw, but collapsed spectacularly to Real Madrid when they were beaten 5-0. Valverde's defeat to Real Madrid highlighted the team's weakness to counter-attacks, something that PSG are very good at. If Valencia are to take a positive result from this game, they will have to pull up their socks defensively to try keeping PSG's expensive strike force at bay.

PSG: Like every top side that are deemed favourites before a game, complacency will tend to creep into the ranks which has proved to be the downfall many a time. PSG are no different. A side which is brimming with talent, critics will cite that it is only a matter of how many goals they put past Valencia. But Ancelotti would do well to remind his players that nothing can be taken for granted in this competition. Valencia will be hoping that the Parisiens make this mistake and look to capitalise on that. Despite their defensive stability, PSG have also been one of the few European sides who have seen the most number of red cards. A total of five red cards, three of which were in games away from home, do not bode well for a team that seems destined for greatness.

Valencia Key Player: Roberto Soldado
PSG Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The former Real Madrid man will be the hosts' best chance of taking something from this game. The Spaniard will have to use his knack of getting into the right areas to good effect.

Valencia are fortunate that they have a striker who is a complete 'Number 9'. Adept at both aerially and on the ground, Soldado will have to bring his A-game if he is to help his side get a result against PSG
There is no doubt that the key to PSG's success in the competition will lie with the giant Swede. The former Milan man will be at the centre of things holding up play and bringing the likes of Pastore, Lavezzi and Menez into the game.

Blessed with height and skilled with both feet, Ibrahimovic is the man who Carlo Ancelotti will look to change the dynamics of the game and continue PSG's quest to be the best in Europe

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