Almost two months since his last appearance, captain Thiago Silva is backing Paris Saint-Germain FC to cope with "high expectations" as they look to claim a UEFA Champions League quarter-final place for the first time since 1995.
Carlo Ancelotti's side have the edge in the round of 16 tie having won 2-1 at Mestalla three weeks ago and, if that were not cause enough for confidence, the Italian can welcome back his inspirational skipper, who has not played since 11 January due to a thigh injury. "Of course it's difficult to return in a UEFA Champions League match, but I've worked very hard and I'm ready to give 100%," said centre-back Silva. "I've spent a lot of time working on my fitness. It's not easy to be kept away from the pitch, but I dedicated all my energy to coming back at the best possible level and I feel ready to help my team-mates in this match."
While PSG remain top of Ligue 1, they have lost two of their last three league fixtures so the Brazilian international's return should offer their back line some much-needed reassurance. "We've been through some difficult moments in the past few weeks, and although I was out I have obviously experienced losses in my career," the 28-year-old added. "The expectations here are very high, but there's always a lot of pressure in football. The Champions League is magic, in that it helps you to focus 100%, which may not always be the case in the league. I'm ready and the team is too. Our goal is to qualify."
While only two sides have let slip an away first-leg victory in UEFA Champions League history, Silva is wary of taking anything for granted and singled out Valencia's centre-forward as a key figure to nullify. "Roberto Soldado is a great striker," the former AC Milan player said. "I like the Spanish Liga a lot, so I follow his matches a lot. He has tonnes of qualities. He can be a threat but he's not the only one – the entire Valencia team can be a danger."
With that in mind, Silva's recovery could scarcely be more timely, and he gave an insight into what Ancelotti's squad have missed during his absence. "The most important quality to be a captain is respect," he explained. "I feel privileged to be PSG's captain. I am honoured to wear that armband, both with the Brazil national team and here. You need to be an example on and off the pitch." He will get a chance to do just that at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.