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Football | France

Becks braced for start of French adventure



David Beckham's eagerly anticipated Paris Saint-Germain debut is set to coincide with French football's biggest fixture as the Ligue 1 leaders lock horns with arch-rivals Marseille on Sunday.

Beckham was included in Carlo Ancelotti's provisional 19-man squad for the clash – referred to as "Le Classique" in France – at Parc des Princes, marking the first time the former England captain has featured in the Italian's plans since his arrival at the end of January.

"He will be available but I don't want to reveal the team. He has worked well (in training) and is in a good state physically and mentally. He wants to play and he is in a condition to start," Ancelotti said.

"He is capable of playing a full match," added the PSG boss, quashing concerns over Beckham's fitness despite the midfielder's last competitive outing coming on December 1 when his former side Los Angeles Galaxy dispatched Houston Dynamo 3-1 to defend their MLS Cup title.

Ancelotti also went on to dismiss suggestions that the club's hierarchy could pressure the Italian to hand Beckham a starting berth.

"I know that (he) has a great image to everyone but for me, if a player deserves to play, he will. If he doesn't deserve it, he won't play," summarised Ancelotti.

A product of the Manchester United youth academy where he starred at Old Trafford for the best part of a decade before moving on to Real Madrid, Los Angeles and AC Milan, Beckham is more than accustomed to intense rivalries that are the focus of much media scrutiny.

"I have played in a lot of big matches in my career, games like AC Milan against Inter, Real Madrid against Barcelona, and the (Los Angeles) Galaxy against Chivas," Beckham told PSG's official website.

"For me, it is very exciting to play in another very special match."

Beckham, who at 37 will be the oldest outfield player in the French top flight, is destined to come up against fellow Englishman and midfield general Joey Barton, a subplot that represents both extremes of the country's footballing culture.

Reputable magazine France Football, the publication responsible for distributing the Ballon d'Or award prior to its merger with the Fifa World Player of the Year prize three years ago, were quick to jump on the significance of the duel.

The magazine highlighted the contrasting public perception of both players by adorning Beckham, the "angel", with wings and a halo and depicting Barton as the "devil" with a mocked-up red-faced, horned image on the front page of its weekend edition.

Beckham, who did his cause no harm by agreeing to donate his estimated 800 000-euro ($1 million) monthly salary to a children's charity, admitted he was relishing the prospect of his latest adventure.

"The league is full of talented players and teams, and it is pretty close at the top just now. It's a difficult league. I know it will be a challenge but it is one I'm really looking forward to."

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