English League 2

Wilder: We are struggling

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Wed, 13 Feb 2013 11:51:00

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo claims Zlatan Ibrahimovic was only sent off against Valencia because of his reputation.

The Swedish striker appeared to become riled as he challenged with two Valencia players and went over the ball in a challenge with Andres Guardado, prompting referee Paolo Tagliavento to brandish the red card.

The dismissal came swiftly after Valencia pulled a goal back in stoppage time, having trailed 2-0, and the Spanish side will head to Paris in three weeks' time looking to make up a 2-1 deficit, with Ibrahimovic suspended.

Leonardo was asked if he regretted the late twist to the night's events.

"To concede a goal, that can happen due to fatigue for example," Leonardo said.

"But the red card... I think Ibrahimovic pays for his reputation. If it was another player committing this foul, he wouldn't be sent off.

"Suddenly, there is a slight bitter feeling because of it."

Carlo Ancelotti's Ligue 1 leaders had taken command at the Mestalla with first-half goals from Argentinian pair Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore, with Valencia's late reply coming from Adil Rami.

"Even when you lead 2-0, it's not easy," Leonardo said.

The Brazilian former World Cup winner stressed it was worth remembering the progress PSG have made since Qatar Sports Investments took control of the club in 2011.

"It's only been a year and a half since QSI took over the club," he said, according to psg.fr.

"We are still in the construction phase. Our ambitions isn't only to win a match in the last 16 away from home. It's more than that.

"To win the Champions League? This year, I don't know. But after that..."

Manager Ancelotti agreed with Leonardo's assessment of Ibrahimovic's dismissal.

"It wasn't deserved," he said. "I don't under stand it, it isn't fair."

Italian Ancelotti added: "We played a good match on a difficult pitch. There was quality and a good attitude. We will need to have this same attitude in the return match.

"We had a lot of chances to score and we defended very well. It's a very good performance even if we let in this goal at the end of the match."

The two European heavyweights go head-to-head in the first leg of their eagerly-awaited last-16 tie, with the return leg at Old Trafford on March 5.

While Pepe acknowledges this season's runaway Premier League leaders will be tough to beat, he insists they are not invincible.

He said: "United are the leaders in England and are having a good season but they not are invincible. This Real team could beat Manchester United.

"Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are the key men but we know how to stop these players. The Real squad has experience and we are able to plan for this type of match.

"Van Persie is in a big moment but it is not easy to score goals against us.

"There is not a clear favourite because any goal could change the picture. Our objective is to obtain a good scoreline in the Bernabeu and to fly to Old Trafford with more calm.

"But I am convinced that the round will be decided in England."

The U's had won four on the bounce back on January 12, but after going two weeks without a game due to postponements they have failed to win since.

And Wilder admitted his players are suffering.

He said: "It was a difficult evening for us.

"Their two goals have come from two throws where we've switched off.

"We're hurting because we've missed chances at times when we've gone clean through and not scored.

"It's plain and obvious to see that a few of the boys are lacking a bit of confidence, and are not prepared to do the things they were prepared to do when things were going better.

"We've got to find a way to change that.

"In training they are looking great, but they are not reproducing it when it matters."

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