Beckham doubtful for Barcelona game

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David Beckham was forced out of Real Madrid's training session yesterday with what appeared to be a left-thigh injury.

Beckham began limping shortly after the start of the session and, after being attended to by a club doctor, was helped off the field. The midfielder is due to appear in Madrid's Spanish league match with Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

With Madrid in second place behind Valencia and seven points clear of third-placed Barcelona with five games to play, the game will have a large bearing on the title race.

Beckham has dominated the popular press during the last two weeks after rumours circulated about his personal life, including an alleged affair with his former personal assistant Rebecca Loos, who has spoken of her alleged relationship with the player on TV. Beckham filled the front pages of Britain's tabloids yesterday by appearing at a party at the Royal Albert Hall the previous evening with a freshly shorn scalp.

The Barcelona defender Carles Puyol is doubtful for the match against Real Madrid because of a thigh injury. "The scans have revealed it's a minor injury to his left leg," the club doctor, Lluis Til, said. "But at the moment he is very doubtful and I think we will be cutting it very fine for him to make Sunday's game."

The Spanish international sustained the injury during the 3-0 win over Malaga last Sunday, a result that helped push the Catalan side up to third place in the table.

Real Madrid received better news about the injured striker Ronaldo who strained a thigh muscle just over a week ago in the 3-0 league defeat at home to Osasuna.

"If there are no setbacks we think he will be able to play against Barcelona," the doctor Juan Carlos Hernandez said. Ronaldo is the leading scorer in the Spanish top flight this season with 24 goals.