Thursday 22 February 2018

Beckham rallies PSG ahead of Barca test

Paris St-Germain's David Beckham during squad training
Paris St-Germain's David Beckham during squad training

Pete Jenson

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN will face the litmus test of the club's progress when they host Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tonight.

PSG have made headlines for a multi-million-euro spending spree which has brought the likes of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, centre-half Thiago Silva and Brazil winger Lucas to the French capital.

Now they are aiming to make their mark on the pitch against Barcelona. But, to do that, Carlo Ancelotti's team have to find a way to keep Lionel Messi quiet. He already has 56 goals to his credit this season.

The World Player of the Year set up the first and scored the second against Celta Vigo last Saturday to complete a run of netting in 19 successive league games against every team in La Liga consecutively.

"How do you beat them? Good question," said Ibrahimovic, who has scored 29 goals himself this season.

"We will have to concentrate on our way of playing and the coach will choose the right tactics for this match against, without doubt, the best team in the world," added Ibrahimovic, who has won league titles with Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan and Barcelona in his time.

With Thiago Motta out injured, the chances of David Beckham being involved tonight have increased.

And it looks increasingly likely that he will stay beyond his current five-month deal, with the player, coach Ancelotti and now the chairman all saying how pleased they are with the arrangement.

"We are going to talk with him about it but, frankly, we really want to keep him with us next season," PSG chairman Nassar el-Khelaifi said.

"He's fantastic, on and off the pitch. Signing David has been one of my best decisions. He has really made an impact. Everybody loves him."

Beckham has urged his team-mates to have the belief that they can overcome Barcelona.

"We're going to meet the challenge," said the 37-year-old, who helped Manchester United win the Champions League in 1999.

"They are perhaps the best team in the world, and (Lionel) Messi is the best player, but he's not out there on the pitch alone. We have to convince ourselves it's possible."

Meanwhile, Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova is expected to return to the dug-out tonight for the first time in two months.


The 44-year-old, who returned to Spain last week, accompanied the Barcelona squad on their flight to Paris yesterday after taking charge of training on Sunday.

Vilanova travelled to New York on January 21 in order to undergo a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy following surgery on his parotid gland in December.

Barca received another timely boost last weekend when left-back Eric Abidal returned to the squad for the first time since receiving a liver transplant last year.

Jordi Alba and Xavi, who missed last Saturday's game, have both recovered from hamstring strains they suffered while on international duty with Spain.

Captain Carles Puyol and Adriano Correia are out injured and, with forward Pedro suspended, the pacy Cristian Tello could feature for the Catalans.

The two famous clubs have met just three times before, with Barcelona winning the 1997 Cup Winners' Cup Final meeting in Rotterdam following PSG's 3-2 aggregate victory in the 1995 Champions League quarter-finals. (© Independent News Service)

Paris St-Germain (probable) – Sirigu, Jallet, Silva, Alex, Maxwell, Lucas, Verratti, Matuidi, Pastore; Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi.

Barcelona (probable) – Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Fabregas, Messi, Villa.

Paris St Germain v Barcelona

Live, TV3 / UTV, 7.45

Irish Independent

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