Real's humiliation adds to pressure on harassed Beckham

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The Independent Online

Things went from bad to worse for David Beckham on Sunday night as Real Madrid's first home league defeat of the season cost them the leadership of La Liga just days after their Champions' League exit. The galacticos now face the humiliating prospect of ending the season without a trophy.

"Galactic ridicule," the Sport newspaper said in a front-page headline, mocking the team's nickname after they were outplayed by Osasuna in Sunday's 3-0 defeat as Madrid fans whistled and waved white handkerchiefs. "SOS", the sports paper As said, adding that Osasuna had taught Real Madrid a lesson, while the El Mundo headline was "Suicide at the Bernabeu".

"If things are going badly, don't worry, tomorrow they could be worse," suggested Roberto Palomar, writing in the sports daily Marca, as a team motto. The newspaper also said: "The symptoms are the same as any team in crisis, but with the multiplying effect ... of having five of the best players in the world [Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Beckham, Luis Figo and Raul] on the pitch."

After a glittering start, Beckham's time at Real Madrid has hit a crisis. His team have lost the Spanish Cup - Spain's equivalent of the FA Cup - were knocked out of the Champions' League by Monaco in the quarter-finals after taking a 4-2 lead in the first leg, and have now fallen from their customary perch at the top of La Liga after Sunday's humiliation.

To add to the strain, the England captain has lived under a media siege related to his personal life for the past two weeks. As photographers and reporters tried to secure a statement, or even just a glimpse of him in Madrid after Sunday's match, he arrived with his wife, Victoria, and two sons at their Hertfordshire home yesterday morning.

The couple issued a statement through Victoria's management agency describing the further claims made over the weekend about Beckham's alleged marital infidelity as "absurd". The pair added that they would be shortly instructing lawyers in the matter.

For Beckham and his team-mates, there are six games of the Spanish league season left to try to rescue something from the campaign. Of the outstanding games, at least four will be tough, starting with next week's Madrid derby against Atletico at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. That will be followed by one of the clashes of the season, at home to an in-form Barcelona, who have been undefeated for three months and have the Brazilian Ronaldinho in a rich vein of form. Third-placed Deportivo la Coruña come next, giving Real Madrid no let-up in the next three weeks.

Only 17th-place Mallorca and bottom-of-the-table Murcia provide a potential cushion of comfort for Beckham's embattled team-mates before they finish the season with a tricky match against Real Sociedad.

Madrid are likely to have to face Atletico and Barça without the Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who damaged muscles in his left leg in the game against Osasuna. The club doctor, Alfonso Del Corral, said Ronaldo's injury was similar to one he sustained last month which kept him out of action for two weeks.

Real's sporting director, Jorge Valdano, acknowledged that the club are suffering at present, saying: "After four very good years we are going through our worst moment."

The club's mananger, Carlos Queiroz, sounded a note of optimism, however, saying, "We have six battles ahead and we are going to prepare for them and win."

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