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Feb 27, 2013

Ancelotti: Ibrahimovic hecklers 'brave'

Carlo Ancelotti has called a group of Paris Saint-Germain fans "brave" for heckling Zlatan Ibrahimovic during last weekend's Ligue 1 Classique with Marseille while sporting director Leonardo wants "a Champions League public" to match the club's ambitions.

• Blog: Beckham set for full debut

Despite Ibrahimovic, 31, scoring a league-leading 22nd goal of the season to cap a 2-0 win over his club's arch-rivals on Sunday and ease PSG three points clear atop the Ligue 1, the Swede's below-par overall display earned him disgruntled whistles from a section of the Parc des Princes crowd.

PSG boss Ancelotti admitted himself the former AC Milan forward's performance had "not been good", but felt he did not deserve criticism from the stands.

"You need to be really brave to whistle a player who has scored 22 goals," the Italian told the press ahead of Wednesday's Coupe de France tie with Marseille in the capital, in which David Beckham will make his first start for the club. "The important thing is that, though he didn't play well, he scored. He maintained his form in terms of scoring goals. He's not used to playing on the counter-attack, and had more problems."

Ancelotti was not the only PSG bigwig to come out in support of Ibrahimovic, who has scored four times in seven league outings since the turn of the year compared with 18 strikes in his first 16 matches of the campaign.

"He's involved in all the important and key moves of the team," sporting director Leonardo told AFP. "It's not possible to be in the best possible shape for ten months, but you can't judge his season on the last two games."

The Brazilian, whose own links to Milan were fundamental to PSG's double-raid on the Rossoneri for Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva last summer, added he felt his club was being judged by the media in a "bizarre" manner, and that fans needed to be less fickle with their own team.

"It's the first time [they've whistled] Ibra, but it's not the first time they've done that to a player. We have to have supporters who push us forward all the time, who help the team, who are confident. We need a more optimistic public, a Champions League public, all the time. It's important to have the support of our fans right to the end. Without that, we're not going to succeed."

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