'Unlucky' Johnson still on Eriksson radar

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The Independent Football

Just six weeks ago, David Beckham was giving moral support to Michael Owen, his Real Madrid club colleague, as England prepared for their World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Azerbaijan. This week the boot could be on the other foot.

Just six weeks ago, David Beckham was giving moral support to Michael Owen, his Real Madrid club colleague, as England prepared for their World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Azerbaijan. This week the boot could be on the other foot as England take on Spain in a friendly international in Madrid at the Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday.

While six goals in seven games, including another strike in last night's 6-1 victory over Albacete, have lit up Owen's Madrid season after a difficult start, Beckham returned to training only last week after the controversy surrounding his injury and suspension following England's match against Wales at Old Trafford last month.

The England captain did, however, play the full 90 minutes for Real last night and looked to have recovered from the broken rib he sustained in a rash challenge on Ben Thatcher. That tackle earned Beckham a yellow card for a second foul on the Wales defender and he was suspended from the following week's game against Azerbaijan. Beckham then found himself in hot water after publicly admitting that he had set out to get himself booked in order to use up the suspension, although the Football Association subsequently decided not to take any disciplinary action against him.

Beckham returns to the England fold after Sven Goran Eriksson named a 22-man squad for Wednesday's game, which will be played at the Bernabeu, the club home of their captain and vice-captain. Eriksson said: "It's nice to have David back with us after his injury. I'm sure that he and Michael Owen will be especially motivated for this game.

"I'm delighted that Michael has found his goalscoring form at Real Madrid. He has shown his determination to be successful there and I never doubted that he would do well. It is always difficult in the beginning to adjust to a new team, language and culture."

Although a broken ankle has ruled out Aston Villa's Darius Vassell, Eriksson has chosen not to bring any more forwards into his squad. Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson, the leading English goalscorer in the Premiership, was considered but did not have a chance to press his claim on Saturday when he missed his team's 3-2 defeat at Liverpool because of a hip injury.

Eriksson, however, had encouraging words for the 23-year-old striker. "Andrew Johnson has done extremely well and has had an excellent season so far," England's head coach said. "It's unlucky for him that he's injured now, but we will keep an eye on him with the next friendly against Holland in mind and see how he progresses."

Birmingham City's Matthew Upson returns to the squad as cover in central defence. Already without Sol Campbell, Eriksson will also have to do without Ledley King, who suffered a knee injury playing for Tottenham Hotspur against Arsenal on Saturday. Robert Green, the Norwich City goalkeeper, also misses out after being carried off at Charlton Athletic on Saturday. His place goes to Liverpool's Chris Kirkland, who has had injury problems of his own but has been in excellent form of late.

Steven Gerrard is still missing through injury and Kieron Dyer has failed to win his place back after returning from a lengthy lay-off. Wayne Bridge, however, makes his return and is likely to resume his place on the left side of England's midfield, where he formed a good partnership with Ashley Cole earlier in the season. Phil Neville, who has been unhappy at his lack of chances at Manchester United, retains his place in the national squad.

England squad

Goalkeepers: Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur), James (Man City), Kirkland (Liverpool). Defenders: A Cole (Arsenal), Upson (Birmingham City), Bridge (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Carragher (Liverpool), Ferdinand (Man United) G Neville (Man United). Midfielders: P Neville (Man United), Jenas (Newcastle United), Beckham (Real Madrid), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Butt (Newcastle United), J Cole (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Wright-Phillips (Man City). Forwards: Rooney (Man United), Smith (Man United), Owen (Real Madrid), Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur).

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