Beckham's return to the scene of 'that red card'

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty ImagesDavid Beckham returns to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard for the first time since his infamous red card during the 1998 World Cup.

David Beckham's return to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday will be his first time back in Saint-Etienne since his red card in the 1998 World Cup when England were eliminated by Argentina in the second round.

However, it was only an interesting minor subplot before a spate of injuries befell the squad. But now, as Carlo Ancelotti's men travel to Le Chaudron to face Christophe Galtier's in-form side, PSG are desperately in need of a win to keep their lead at the top of Ligue 1 and Beckham could play a key role.

This match is too important for PSG to lose their focus once again as they have been guilty of doing domestically in recent weeks. Les Verts are aiming to complete the treble over the capital club after a 2-1 league victory at the Parc des Princes on November 3 was followed by a Coupe de la Ligue victory on penalties on home soil at the end of that month. The visitors can ill-afford another slip-up on Sunday after it initially looked as if Beckham was going to play in a marginalised role.

- Silva calls for focus

ASSE currently sit fourth in the table with PSG top, four points clear of second placed Lyon. However, Ancelotti's side will be mindful that their last league defeat to Saint-Etienne preceded an almighty wobble that almost cost Ancelotti his job. Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw red and Les Parisiens were cut open by a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-inspired visiting side that brutally exposed a number of flaws in the PSG side.

The hosts looked particularly weak when faced with the likes of the Gabonese Aubameyang, the towering Brazilian Brandao and the dual creativity of Romain Hamouma and Renaud Cohade (a late substitute in the match). The side from the capital know that they will have to silence these threats come Sunday if they are to stand a chance of quelling the vociferous home support that makes the Geoffroy-Guichard such a formidable fortress and an extremely inhibiting venue for opponents.

It is hardly a time for Ancelotti to take risks then, but the injuries to Lucas Moura, Jeremy Menez, Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta will force his hand. Though it won't necessarily open up a space for Beckham in the starting XI, it does bring him closer to the action as either he or Clement Chantome will likely step into the lineup as the Italian tries to fill the void left by Verratti alongside Blaise Matuidi.

Moura's absence is a huge blow, but one Ancelotti was already aware of along with Motta's prior to the match. The concerns over the fitness of Verratti and Menez were not anticipated and potentially leave PSG short of numbers in midfield with a place on the right and in the middle available. Of course, Ancelotti could elect to play the recently impressive Kevin Gameiro up top alongside Ibrahimovic, moving Ezequiel Lavezzi to the left and Javier Pastore to the right. But that would still leave a hole in the middle to be filled by either Chantome or Beckham, assuming the Italian keeps sticks with the current system.

It would appear that the 37-year-old stands as good a chance of any to play as the capital club aim to avenge November's defeat to their bête noir.

This time though, the repercussions of a similar defeat for PSG would be amplified. It took them until December 16 to re-take top spot after that November defeat. Six whole weeks; including a series of dropped points at home to Rennes, at then-struggling Montpellier and at vastly improved Nice who are now under the guidance of Claude Puel. It was a particularly sticky period of games for Ancelotti's side and that series is about to recur as they enter that return part of the season.

Though a glamour tie, the impact of the Champions League quarterfinal with Spanish giants Barcelona in a fortnight that looms on horizon could prove deadly for PSG. They now embark on a run of five crunch matches in the next three weeks (including an international period) that will potentially make or break their season. To boot, the remainder of April is also challenging with potentially tricky clashes at Troyes and against Nice at home before a Savoyard double header against Evian in the Coupe de France and then league.

The impact of a defeat on PSG could be massive. It is not an option at this stage of the season so there is little room for sentiment. But with Beckham's sub-plot bubbling below the surface, the chances of the Englishman's return to the Geoffroy-Guichard being pushed further into the limelight are growing by the minute.

Is Beckham to exorcise some demons on Sunday then? Maybe, just maybe he will.

ESPN Conversations