Real optimistic over Beckham injury

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The Independent Football

The word from Madrid had Sven Goran Eriksson breathing a little easier yesterday with David Beckham's foot injury appearing to be less serious than at first thought.

The England manager will have been relieved to know that his captain and talisman looks likely to be fit to face Turkey in the final European Championship qualifying match in Istanbul on Saturday week.

Beckham has been left out of the Real Madrid squad for the trip to Porto in the Champions' League tomorrow, but he is expected to be available for the Spanish league game against Espanyol on Sunday. "We think that is a possibility ­ it's one of those injuries that is painful, but not necessarily serious," a club spokesman said.

Beckham was injured when he stubbed his right foot taking a free-kick during the 2-0 defeat at Valencia on Saturday. He is suffering from an acute inflammation of the sole and will require physiotherapy and rest. Yesterday morning he did 40 minutes' work in the gym ­ concentrating on upper-body exercises ­ and was limping badly.

The midfielder, who describes himself as "a quick healer", had a groin injury before England's qualifiers against Macedonia and Liechtenstein, but recovered to play.

The Istanbul game is vital for England, who would qualify automatically for Euro 2004 as Group Seven winners with a draw or a victory. However, should England lose, Turkey would top the group and England would have to go through a play-off in order to win their ticket to the finals in Portugal.

His absence will be felt against Porto. "We don't have a big squad and he has been very important for us in midfield," Michel Salgado, the Real full-back, said.

The Real captain and joint top-scorer, Raul, has also been left out of the squad to face the Portuguese champions, but he could still make the trip if he passes a fitness test today.

On a positive note for Real, the defender Ivan Helguera has recovered from a throat infection. The Spanish international is likely to be asked to move up to his former position in the centre of midfield to cover for the absent Beckham.

Real opened their Champions' League campaign in typical style with a 4-2 victory over Olympique Marseilles at the Bernabeu Stadium two weeks ago.

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