Beckham facing bench again

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The Independent Football

David Beckham's Real Madrid career could hit a new low tonight if, as expected, he is left on the bench for the second week running - unprecedented in his time at the club.

Last weekend the former England captain was replaced by Jose Antonio Reyes, who is expected to keep his place when Madrid face Real Betis tonight.

The Real coach, Fabio Capello, said: "We can't play with 12 so someone is always left out. There exists a rotation of the team. Beckham is no more than a squad player like all the rest."

Beckham must wait to see if his new status affects forthcoming contract talks. One poll suggested fans are not too bothered if he stays beyond the end of his current contract, which expires in the summer - almost 50 per cent voted against giving him a new deal.

With all the leading three playing tomorrow, Real will move top of La Liga, if only for 23 hours, should they win at Real Betis tonight. Valencia's visit to the Nou Camp tomorrow night carries a weighty significance. Both teams have begun with three consecutive victories.

In Italy, the surprise early leaders, Palermo, travel to Tuscany tomorrow to play Empoli. The Sicilians, who play West Ham in the Uefa Cup on Thursday, will hope for a fourth successive victory but Empoli are themselves unbeaten.

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