Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Beckham's injury worries hamstring Real's title hopes

AFP , MADRID

Concerns over the fitness of David Beckham continue to plague Real Madrid, who may be without the England captain for their third successive game when they face Athletic Bilbao today.

Beckham suffered a hamstring injury against Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League nine days ago.

The reigning Spanish champions managed to pick up four points from their outings at Racing Santander and Real Zaragoza but they looked rather less than the Real deal without Beckham.

Beckham trained lightly on Thursday but called it quits after just an hour.

"Keep your fingers crossed that I'm going to be OK for Saturday," he said afterwards.

The other Real fitness doubt, as they bid to grab the league leadership from Deportivo La Coruna, is over Ivan Helguera.

The Spanish international has back problems, which leaves Real coach Carlos Queiroz with holes to fill both in midfield and defense due to the absence of suspended Francisco Pavon, who was sent off during Real's 0-0 draw at Zaragoza on Tuesday.

Queiroz called up seven reserve team players to train with the first team on Thursday and several of them could be on the bench on Saturday.

Nevertheless, Real should not be overly worried by the visit of Athletic, who have not won away from home this season despite lying sixth.

It has been just over four months since the Basques were last in the Santiago Bernabeu and they were easily dispatched 3-1 in the final game of last season as Real clinched their 29th Spanish league title.

Deportivo are on top 21 points from their nine games, one more than second-placed Real, will be out to bounce back at struggling Murcia after crashing 2-0 at home to Real Mallorca on Wednesday, arguably the shock result of the season.

"I think that will be a kick up the backside to all of us," said Deportivo midfielder Sergio Gonzalez on Thursday.

Deportivo's Spanish international striker Diego Tristan, was ill against Mallorca and its doubtful for today.

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