Champions League

Ancelotti: PSG deserve it

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Thu, 07 Mar 2013 11:21:00

Former Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick believes a spell back in the second division might do the club some good as they struggle for survival in the Bundesliga.

Former Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick believes a spell back in the second division might do the club some good as they struggle for survival in the Bundesliga.

Rangnick led Hoffenheim from the third tier of German football into the top flight in consecutive seasons before leaving in early 2011.

He is now director of sport at Salzburg but continues to follow the progress of his former team and believes relegation, which is looking increasingly likely, could be a blessing in disguise.

"Relegation would be a chance to get back to the roots because Hoffenheim was always a club who were successful with the philosophy of working above all with young players," he said.

"Sadly they have veered off this path recently."

Hoffenheim slipped 11 points adrift of safety after losing to Bayern Munich last weekend, and with just 10 games of the season to go, they are running out of time to save their season.

"The situation is unfortunately so dramatic that Hoffenheim risk going down automatically," Rangnick said in the Bild newspaper.

"To be honest, (the situation) really hurts me."

Defender Lopez and winger Miyaichi both featured in the Latics' Under-21s fixture against Nottingham Forest earlier this week as part of their rehabilitation from long-term injury lay-offs.

A substitute appearance in the 1-0 fourth-round win at Macclesfield in January is the only first-team action Lopez has seen since he suffered a hamstring tear in the 2-1 Barclays Premier League loss at Norwich in December.

Miyaichi, on loan at Wigan from Arsenal for the season, has been sidelined by an ankle problem, with his last involvement with the senior side coming in a substitute run-out in the 3-0 away league defeat to Liverpool in November - a game in which he was making his comeback from a groin complaint.

Asked this morning about the duo, Latics manager Roberto Martinez - whose squad has been hit by a host of injuries this season - said: "Adrian Lopez played 90 minutes for the Under-21s and Ryo played 45 minutes, so I do consider them fully fit and I think they are available now.

"Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz have come through our two previous games, against Reading and Liverpool, well enough.

"So I do expect everyone to be available for selection apart from Ben Watson, Albert Crusat and Ivan Ramis. Probably this is the strongest we have been this season."

The 1-1 draw in Paris guided PSG to a 3-2 aggregate success, with an opening goal from Valencia's Jonas wiped out by an equaliser from Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Now the French capital club face a wait to learn who they must face in the last eight, with the draw taking place in eight days' time.

For Ancelotti, twice a Champions League winner as a manager with AC Milan, getting through against Valencia was a fine achievement.

He said: "Over the two matches, I think we deserved to qualify. It was more difficult tonight (Wednesday) than in the away leg.

"In the first half, we played with a bit of worry about us. Paradoxically, we started to play better after the goal by Jonas and we played well in the second half. The players showed a very good reaction."

And so PSG go forward to a Champions League quarter-final for the first time since 1995, when they beat Barcelona over two legs to advance to the semi-finals.

Milan toppled the Parisians in the last four, but on the evidence of last night's largely drab performance Ancelotti's team will struggle to make further progress this year.

The rebuilding process at the Parc des Princes is such that anything they achieve further in Europe this season can be considered a bonus.

Funds from the club's owners, Qatar Investment Authority, have been used to shape a first team capable of competing at this level but they lack the strength in squad depth of many of the clubs they might encounter next.

The absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last night left PSG without a real presence in attack, and the suspension that counted the Swedish striker out of the second leg against Valencia will also keep him sidelined for the first match in the quarter-finals.

Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants PSG to become a permanent fixture in the latter stages of the Champions League, and has designs on winning the trophy by 2016.

Al-Khelaifi is more than pleased with the progress that has already been achieved, and was full of praise for the accomplishment of finishing off a Spanish side with bags of Champions League experience.

"We are very happy to qualify for the quarter-finals," he said.

"It was a difficult match for us, but we are now one of the best eight clubs in Europe and it's magnificent.

"Before the match, I was very confident. It was a delicate operation to score tonight but everyone worked hard: the coach and the players."

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