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FOOTBALL: Beckham rules out injury talk.

Byline: GRAHAM CHASE

ENGLAND captain David Beckham played down injury concerns after picking up a knock in last night's Champions League quarter-finals.

The Real Madrid midfielder reported thigh and calf troubles after the 4-2 first-leg defeat of Monaco -but is confident he will be able to play a part in England's friendly international with Sweden in Gothenburg next week.

``I got knock on my thigh and calf in the first half and I think it's just a dead leg,'' said Beckham.

Meanwhile, Beckham admitted Real's recent problems had affected them in the first half of last night's match against the French team.

The Spanish champions went in at the break a goal down after Sebastien Squillaci flicked the ball past Iker Cassilas two minutes before half-time.

Still reeling from a Cop a del Rey defeat by Zaragoza and a weekend hammering by Athletico Bilbao, Real fans must have been fearing the worst at half-time.

But second half goals from Ivan Helguera, Zinedine Zidane,Luis Figo and Ronaldo got Real back on course before Fernando Morientes pulled one back late on for Monaco.

Beckham admits it was typical of Real's performances this season as they chase glory bo th domestically and in Europe.

``We've had game after game, sometimes we find it hard to get going in the first half but we picked up in the second,'' said the England skipper.

``Losing at the weekend in the league and our lead being cut down to a point, there was a lot of pressure on us to perform.

``We carried that into the first- half a bit, but we came out in the second half,created chances and thankfully we put them away.''

The former Manchester United man will miss the second leg in Monaco after picking up a booking three minutes into injury-time.

But the England captain was full of praise for Ronaldo, who celebrated his return from injury by forcing the penalty which set up the third goal, before scoring Real's fourth.

Beckham continued: ``People say `Ronnie' doesn't run a lot and he doesn't work very hard but having his presence on the pitch helps the team.

``He's one of the best strikers in the world,if not the best -and he's proved it again tonight.''

CAPTION(S):

REAL DEAL: David Beckham (thirdfrom left) celebrates with team-mates during last night's Champions Leaguequarter-final victory over Monaco
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2004
Words:395
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