Classique catches eye around the world
By D. Crossan
The eyes of the footballing world will be on the Parc des Princes on Sunday evening with David Beckham set to make his long-awaited Paris Saint-Germain debut when Olympique de Marseille come to town for a much-anticipated Classique.
Paris Saint-Germain - Olympique de Marseille
Beckham has taken a full part in training this week at Clairefontaine, the French national side's training base, and his every move will be covered in the minutest detail with Canal+, the French TV channel, having set up a specially dedicated Beck'cam to follow England's most capped outfield player.
At the time of writing it was impossible to predict whether the 37-year-old would start Sunday's match or be introduced to proceedings off the bench, although injuries in midfield have enhanced Beckham's prospects of appearing from the off.
Lucas Moura (ankle) and Jérémy Ménez (groin) are both still struggling, while Clément Chantôme disappointed in the shock 3-2 loss at Sochaux last Sunday when asked to fill in on the right side of midfield.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti is on record saying he will not alter his favoured 4-4-2 system to accommodate Beckham and the Italian says he will consider Beckham's claims to feature in the centre of midfield as well as on the right.
With 115 caps, Beckham won 114 more than Joey Barton, the Englishman who will be on the opposing side on Sunday. Barton said this week: "Beckham is a star off the pitch, but on the pitch, to be honest, he's no great cause for concern. He inspires a lot less fear than he did when he was playing in the Premier League. It would be naïve of us to focus on David Beckham."
André Ayew: 'Beckham's not my idol'
André Ayew, OM's Ghanaian international attacking midfielder, added: "Beckham's a great player. When I was small I watched him play on TV and I saw him do some really beautiful things and win trophies. He's not my idol though. It was never my dream to have the chance to play against him. I like fashion and I appreciate him more in that domain than for the quality of his right foot, even if he's scored some beautiful goals and played some extraordinary passes for assists."
The Sochaux loss was the first time PSG had conceded more than two goals in a league game since a 4-3 win at Valenciennes on May 6 last year and the defeat brought an end to a nine-game unbeaten league run composed of eight victories and a draw.
Although both centre-backs - Alex and Mamadou Sakho - were credited with goals at Sochaux, PSG struggled defensively against the movement of Les Lionceaux and Salvatore Sirigu had an uncharacteristically shaky game in goal. Sakho (thigh) is a definite absentee on Sunday, and is also out of the French Cup Round of 16 match against OM at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday, while Alex is also struggling and club captain Thiago Silva (thigh) has been out since Week 20 and is touch and go for Sunday. It means Ancelotti may be forced to go with a centre-back pairing of Sylvain Armand and Zoumana Camara.
OM had managed only five points from five league outings in 2013 prior to their 1-0 home victory over Valenciennes in Week 25, secured by full-back Rod Fanni's 94th-minute goal. Jordan Ayew serves the second of his two-game ban and Benoît Cheyrou is out, while Burkina Faso captain Charles Kaboré was transferred out of the club this week, sold to Russian club Kuban Krasnodar.
There have already been two Classiques this season. In Week 8 of the Ligue 1 season the clubs drew 2-2 at the Stade Vélodrome with André-Pierre Gignac and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both netting doubles. At the Parc des Princes in late October PSG were 2-0 winners in the Round of 16 of the Coupe de la Ligue.
The perfect occasion for Barton?
Barton was unavailable for those games because of a domestic suspension carried over from a red card collected for Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League and so will be involved in his first Classique this weekend.
Ayew believes these high-intensity games are made for the former Manchester City midfielder: "I'm close to him and we talk a lot. He's experienced these sorts of games before even if it's his first Classique. He's ready mentally and physically. This sort of game is made for him. We had a player of his style before in Gaby Heinze [who also played for PSG]. Those games were easy for Gaby. Joey also has that sort of mentality and that ability to play under pressure."
Paris Saint-Germain: Sirigu; Jallet (c), Alex (or Camara), Armand, Maxwell; Lucas, Verratti, Matuidi, Pastore; Lavezzi, Ibrahimovic
Marseille: Mandanda (c); Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel; Romao, Barton; Kadir, Valbuena, A. Ayew; Gignac