Haves take on have-nots as PSG meet Valencia

MADRID Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:24am IST

MADRID (Reuters) - Paris St Germain's trip to Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday pits the wealthy French team against one of many La Liga clubs struggling to stay competitive after years of financial struggle.

The contrast is less than flattering for Valencia who, rather than splurging hundreds of millions of euros on top players, have been forced year-in year-out to sell leading performers like David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.

They are now effectively owned by the Valencia government after the club's foundation was unable to keep up with payments on a bank loan guaranteed by the regional administration that was used to buy a stake in the club.

The club had debts of almost 400 million euros in the 2010-11 season, according to a recent study by an accounting professor at the University of Barcelona, and a new stadium under construction has been left half built.

Qatari-backed PSG, by contrast, have used their financial windfall to hire Champions League-winning Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti and players such as Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Brazil defender Thiago Silva and Argentina forward Ezequiel Lavezzi.

According to the latest transfer review by Barcelona-based Prime Time Sport, the French club spent 249 million euros on players over the last four seasons, putting them fourth in the major European leagues behind Barcelona (278 million), Real Madrid (428 million) and Manchester City (442 million).

PSG are riding high at the top of Ligue 1 after Friday's 3-1 win at home to Bastia while Valencia are improving but still down in fifth place in La Liga and in danger of missing out on a Champions League spot next season.

Unlike last-16 counterpart Ancelotti, Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde did not rest key players at the weekend with captain Roberto Soldado, playmaker Ever Banega and winger Sofiane Feghouli featuring in Saturday's last-gasp 1-0 win at Celta Vigo.

Striker Nelson Valdez came off the bench and headed the winner in the third minute of added time as Valencia's form continued to pick up under Valverde who replaced the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino in December.

DANGEROUS PLAYERS

Valencia full back Joao Pereira told a news conference on Sunday that PSG are not just Ibrahimovic and 10 other players.

The Swede, who once spent a season with Valencia's La Liga rivals Barcelona, has been in scintillating form this term and tops the Ligue 1 scoring charts with 21 goals in as many appearances.

Pereira said he and his team mates should not be obsessed with thwarting Ibrahimovic as the PSG squad was full of dangerous players.

"They are all very good footballers and we have to be very focused to try and stop them," Pereira added.

"They have a lot of stars and are building a team. They have signed some great players and the more time they spend playing together the better the team will be."

PSG's latest signing, former England captain David Beckham, is expected to be in the stands for the first leg at the Mestalla on Tuesday.

Probable teams:

Valencia: 1-Diego Alves; 12-Joao Pereira, 20-Ricardo Costa, 4-Adil Rami, 17-Andres Guardado; 24-Tino Costa, 21-Daniel Parejo; 8-Sofiane Feghouli, 7-Jonas, 10-Ever Banega; 9-Roberto Soldado

PSG: 30-Salvatore Sirigu; 26-Christophe Jallet, 13-Alex, 3-Mamadou Sakho, 17-Maxwell; 7-Jeremy Menez, 24-Marco Verratti, 14-Blaise Matuidi, 27-Javier Pastore; 11-Ezequiel Lavezzi, 18-Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy) (Additional reporting by Olivier Guillemain in Paris, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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