Paris: Leonardo’s assertion that Paris St-Germain are made for the Champions League but not for low-key Ligue 1 matches could backfire on Wednesday if they do not show a dramatic improvement against Valencia in a last-16 second leg match.
Sports director Leonardo explained PSG’s embarrassing 0-1 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 Wednesday’s home game have been hurt by suspensions to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Marco Verratti.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti blamed a bad pitch at Reims for the loss but there will be no excuses on Wednesday on their Parc des Princes turf, where 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, is set to start the match unless Ancelotti decides to field Clement Chantome or Thiago Motta returns from injury.
In the other match Juventus will face Celtic. Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo could be forgiven for having the 2005 Champions League final on his mind when his side take a 3-0 advantage into their last-16 second-leg clash.
Pirlo was in the shell-shocked AC Milan team who blew a 3-0 halftime lead against Liverpool before losing on penalties in one of the most astonishing European finals in history.
Celtic, beaten 3-0 at home, need to end Juve’s 17-match unbeaten European run and re-write the Champions League record books when they visit the Italian champions but Pirlo, a 2006 World Cup winner with Italy, has seen it all.
“I’ve been in football long enough to know miracles happen. I can still remember the Champions League final against Liverpool,” he said.
“Liverpool scored three goals in just a half, whereas Celtic have a whole game. It would be dangerous to consider that the tie is won yet.”
The Serie A leaders are leaving nothing to chance, although coach Antonio Conte might be tempted to rest Arturo Vidal, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Claudio Marchisio who are one yellow card from suspension.
Ancelloti, on the other hand, is also 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 while the Portuguese defender, who has suffered a minor muscle problem, has been left out of the squad.