Beckham conducts lone battle to be fit for Barcelona match

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The Independent Football

David Beckham is hopeful of shaking off a thigh strain in time to play for Real Madrid against Barcelona in this weekend's La Liga game at the Bernabeu.

David Beckham is hopeful of shaking off a thigh strain in time to play for Real Madrid against Barcelona in this weekend's La Liga game at the Bernabeu.

"I did a good training session on my own because I'm still not 100 per cent fit," the England captain said yesterday. "I feel better although I'm still feeling some pain, but I hope that disappears during the week."

Beckham strained a muscle in his left thigh during England's 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan in the World Cup qualifier at St James' Park last week.

"My leg is less swollen and I feel more comfortable," he said. "I will train on my own tomorrow and then decide with the doctors and coaching staff when I can join up with the rest of the squad."

The striker Raul admitted that even a victory, which would leave Real six points behind Barça with seven matches to go, might not be enough to loosen the Catalans' grip on the title.

"Even if we win we still depend on Barcelona slipping up again," he said. "After this season we want to give the fans something to celebrate and narrow the gap to add a bit of emotion to the title race. But even if we win, Barcelona still have the title within their reach."

Raul was confident he would be fit for the match after missing Sunday's win at Albacete because of a bruised foot. He also sidestepped questions about whether he would displace Michael Owen in the starting line-up.

"That's a question for the coach," he said. "We all know Michael Owen - he's a great player, he's got the ability to score goals and can change the course of games.

"He's an important player for Real Madrid and all that I want is for Owen, Ronaldo and myself to score lots of goals."

Owen took his tally for the season to 10 league goals with the winner against Albacete. Ronaldo has hit one of the most barren patches in his career, scoring just once in the last 11 games while Raul has found the net only six times this season.

"In football you go through a number of stages," said Raul. "And I'm going through one that isn't that pleasant at the moment ..."

Henrik Larsson looks set to repay the faith shown in him while he has been injured by signing a new two-year deal with Barcelona.

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