Thiago Silva: Great players must be ready
The return of influential centre-back Thiago Silva after almost two months on the sidelines comes as a timely boost for Paris Saint-Germain ahead of their UEFA Champions League last 16, second leg against Valencia at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
The Brazil international suffered a thigh injury in the goalless Ligue 1 draw with Ajaccio on 11 January, and has missed his team's subsequent ten matches. In that time, PSG have looked shakier at the back than they do when the former AC Milan man is there, strolling through games and calmly organising those around him.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended, the French giants will look to the 28-year-old to help ease them through to the quarter-finals of Europe's leading club competition, with PSG currently 2-1 up from the first leg in Spain.
"It is difficult to come straight back without being used to the rhythm, but all great players must be ready to play and I have prepared myself to be ready for a match of this size," said Silva at the eve-of-game press conference.
PSG were surprisingly beaten 1-0 at struggling Reims on Saturday, leading to claims by the club's sporting director Leonardo that the side are better suited for Europe than for the weekly grind of Ligue 1. "Perhaps we have a team designed more for Europe," he said, in comments that were surprising from a man in Leonardo's position.
Nevertheless, there was an element of truth to them and his compatriot Silva agrees. "The Champions League changes everything," he said. "Our concentration increases because games like these ensure that it is at its maximum. I am prepared for this game, and I feel the team is too.
"Practically all of us, players and coaches, live off results. If a player doesn't score, or a goal is let in because of his mistake, he can be dropped, so we constantly live under pressure. But it's good pressure, positive pressure."
Ancelotti to start with Gameiro, Beckham?
The tie is PSG's to lose, even if a late Adil Rami goal in the first leg last month allowed Valencia to maintain some hope.
Carlo Ancelotti's side have often been at their best this season when playing on the counter-attack, with the first leg, in which PSG had less than 40 per cent of the possession, a perfect example. However, the Italian, a former winner of the European Cup as a player and coach, urged his team to forget about what happened at the Mestalla and focus on getting the job done.
"We need to forget what happened in first leg," he said. "We need to play at our best, defend and attack well, and control the game. That's our objective."
As well as the absence of Ibrahimovic, Ancelotti must do without Jeremy Menez due to injury, meaning Kevin Gameiro, who is yet to appear in Europe this season, is a contender to lead the attack.
"It would be logical to play him as he's a striker, so he could replace Ibrahimovic," said Ancelotti. "But we have other options to put out a competitive team, even if it's true he's the only striker available to us along with [Ezequiel] Lavezzi."
He was not giving much away, though, when it came to the possibility of David Beckham starting the game. The Englishman performed well on his full debut in the French Cup defeat of Marseille last week, but struggled to have an influence in 30 minutes on the pitch at Reims.
"I've already taken a decision," Ancelotti said, without confirming what that decision was. Verratti is suspended, [Thiago] Motta has recovered but hasn't played much recently. He could come in for Verratti."