Valencia has to find a way to breach PSG's defense

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VALENCIA, Spain (AP) -- Valencia has to find a way to both breach Paris Saint-Germain's rock-solid defense and keep top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet when they meet in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.

PSG has not been beaten since losing 2-1 away to Nice on Dec. 1, winning 11 and drawing one of its past 12 matches in all competitions and conceding only five goals during that run. Ibrahimovic came off the bench to notch his 23rd goal of the season in Friday's 3-1 home win against Bastia -- including 21 in just 21 league games.

"They are all very good players and we will have to be very focused to try and stop them," Valencia defender Joao Pereira said. "They have a lot of star players and they are forming a team. They have signed great players and as time passes they will become a better team."

PSG travels to Spain without Brazil center back Thiago Silva or central midfielder Thiago Motta, who are both injured, but the team could feature two players costing more than €40 million ($53.5 million): Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore and Brazil winger Lucas.

"It is a game that everyone wants to see," Pereira said. "They have spent a lot of money on signings, they are in first place in the French league. I think it will be a great match."

Things have vastly improved at PSG since the turn of the year, and it has pulled well clear of its title rivals Lyon and Marseille.

"I am happy at the moment. We've had some very good results and played very well," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti told sports daily L'Equipe on Monday. "The team has become solid defensively. All of the players are working hard together."

Now it must assert itself in Europe.

The turning point for PSG's season, according to Ancelotti, was the home win against Porto in the Champions League three days after the Nice defeat -- which was PSG's third loss in five league games and prompted an angry Ancelotti to speak of a crisis.

"The atmosphere surrounding the team wasn't good. The match against Porto was the key," Ancelotti said. "The players understood that they had to play with a different mentality."

One constant, no matter what PSG's results over the season, has been the scoring of Ibrahimovic -- and he is clearly the main threat facing Valencia.

Valencia center half Adil Rami was given a bruising time by the imposing striker when France lost 2-0 to Sweden in their final group game at the European Championships in June, with Ibrahimovic scoring a spectacular goal and bullying Rami all game.

"He was in great form and I was going through a bad spell," Rami said. "He's one of the best strikers in the world, a little bit under (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo ... I will have to press the 'On' button in my head and be ready for the full 90 minutes."

Valencia's main weapon against PSG's star-studded team of individuals is likely to be its sense of teamwork -- a weakness in PSG's team that still irks Ancelotti as he tries to find the best system to accommodate all of his stars.

"We know that on paper they are better than us, we won't hide from that. But I think that we are better than them collectively," Rami said Monday in an interview with French television network Infosport. "I think it will be very hard for them with the way we play. We close teams down. (There) are a lot of individuals (in the PSG team) but I think it will take time for them (to gel)."

Valencia, which is fifth in La Liga, had a tough start to the season but has gained in confidence after losing just two of the past 10 games, winning at Celta Vigo on Saturday thanks to a goal in stoppage time from substitute striker Nelson Valdez.

"We are going through a good spell. Our morale is good. These type of games are opportunities for us," coach Ernesto Valverde said. "In front of us we have a great team with great players."

The main threat to PSG's defense is likely to come from the pace and guile of Roberto Soldado, the club's top scorer in the league with 11 goals -- although he has not scored in his past four games.

PSG is likely to play a 4-4-2 system and press the Spanish high up the pitch to disrupt their passing game.

"Valencia is a very good team, very compact," Ancelotti said. "They like to play the Spanish way, with a lot of overlaps and short passes, and with Soldado who is very dangerous with his runs from deep."

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AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.