The last surviving Englishman in the Champions League was given a vote of confidence by his coach as Carlo Ancelotti suggested David Beckham will start in the quarter-final second leg against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
Leo Messi’s inclusion also looks likely after his recent hamstring injury scare, although Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta reminded Paris Saint-Germain that the team who have won the competition twice in the last four years are quite capable of reaching the Champions League semi-finals without their leading scorer.
Ancelotti said criticism of Beckham’s performance in the first leg, which ended 2-2, was misplaced and would have no bearing on his decision today. “Some people criticised him, some people were happy with him; I was happy so if the manager was happy then Beckham should be happy,” he said. “He has a chance to play. I thought he played well in the first leg.”
The former Chelsea manager also said that he did not feel Beckham’s Real Madrid past would see him given a hostile reception in the Nou Camp. “He has a very good image. He does not have a problem to play here. He has played as an international. Everyone respects him.”
Messi joined his team-mates for training, but Iniesta denied Barcelona are over-dependent on the player who has scored 43 of their 95 goals in the league this season.
“We know he is the No 1 when he plays but we just want to reach the end of the season having won as many trophies as possible regardless who has scored the goals,” Iniesta said. “We all have to be leaders in our own position. We are ready and prepared to win the game with or without Leo. He is a unique player for us, but from this squad someone always steps forward when it’s necessary. We want to get to the final. We came close last year and to just fall short is what drives us on this time.”
Cesc Fabregas will play in place of Messi if the Argentine starts on the bench, and he does so having just scored his first career hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Mallorca. “We are lucky that Cesc is comfortable with whatever role he has,” said Iniesta. “He has played in another country and become a very complete player.”
Fabregas is trying to reach his first Champions League final since Paris 2006 when he was on the losing side for Arsenal against Barcelona. For Beckham the match provides him with the opportunity to reach his first Champions League semi-final since his Manchester United days.
Barcelona’s assistant coach Jordi Roura also believes Beckham will play tonight. “I don’t think [the PSG team] will be too different from the first game,” he said.
Iniesta added: “We know how quick they are. We know they run well with the ball at pace. We saw it in the first leg. Technically they are very good and we have to bear that in mind but we concentrate on what we are going to do. If we are at our best then the opposition suffers more than we do.”
Independent News Service