Beckham's PSG, Marseille renew hostilities
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Paris Saint-Germain's British midfielder David Beckham looks on during the French L1 football match Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs Olympique de Marseille (OM) on February 24, 2013 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. AFP photoThree days after clashing in the league, bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille meet again at the Parc des Princes in the last 16 of the French Cup on Wednesday, with David Beckham a possible starter for the home side.
Beckham made his long-awaited debut for the capital club when he came off the bench for the final 15 minutes of Sunday's game, which PSG won 2-0 thanks to an early Nicolas Nkoulou own-goal and an untidy stoppage-time counter from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to maintain their three-point lead over Lyon at the top of Ligue 1.
Now, there is a good chance that the veteran Englishman will start the latest edition of a fixture known as 'Le Classique,' with Beckham himself insisting that he is nearing full fitness and coach Carlo Ancelotti having to do without the suspended Marco Verratti for the game.
"He brought his passing quality, experience and tactical positioning to the game," said Ancelotti of Beckham's cameo in Sunday's match. "He might start on Wednesday because Verratti is suspended." "I'm very close to being a hundred percent fit now," added Beckham. "But I never expect to start a game because we've got many great players in the team, and I'm just very happy to be part of the squad." While PSG are targeting a domestic league and cup double, something they have never achieved before, this match is arguably more important for Marseille.
They are now eight points adrift of top spot in Ligue 1, meaning the Cup represents their only realistic hope of winning any silverware this season.
The Marseille squad have stayed in the Paris area to prepare for what will be the fourth meeting of the clubs this season, with PSG having won one and drawn one of the two league encounters.
They also won 2-0 when the teams met in the last 16 of the League Cup at the end of October.
"It is a funny week," said striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. "We would have preferred to return home, but we need to recover and hopefully go through in the Cup." The clubs last met in the competition in the 2006 final, when PSG won 2-1, and the capital side have a good record in the French Cup, having won the trophy eight times altogether. Their most recent triumph came in 2010, while they also lost the 2011 final to Lille.
In contrast, Marseille have won the trophy a record ten times, but not at all since 1989.
The game is one of three ties between top-flight clubs, with Sochaux taking on Troyes and Lorient facing Brest in a Brittany derby while Saint-Etienne play host to Lille in a repeat of last month's League Cup semi-final, which Les Verts won on penalties.
Lower-league teams have done well in the French Cup in recent seasons, with third-tier Quevilly going all the way to last season's final.
Another third-tier side, Epinal, are still in the competition after beating the holders Lyon on penalties in the Round of 64, and they now travel to second-tier Lens.
The lowest-ranked survivors, however, are amateurs Minguettes Venissieux, of the fifth tier, who take on Ligue 1 strugglers Nancy.
French Cup last 16 fixtures (all kick-offs GMT) Tuesday Sochaux v Troyes (1700), Evian v Le Havre (1800), Saint-Etienne v Lille (1950) Wednesday Lorient v Brest (1600), Raon-l'Etape v Bordeaux (1745), Minguettes Venissieux v Nancy (1800), Paris Saint-Germain v Marseille (1955) Thursday Lens v Epinal (1950).