AS WE WAIT FOR EL CLASICO | Although he has done everything to convince Zinedine Zidane that he deserves a starting spot in El Clasico, Isco will have to settle for a place on the bench, again.


This is because Casemiro’s return means that the Real Madrid coach will start the Brazilian against Barcelona as he did last season.Real and Barca will meet in their highly anticipated duel at Camp Nou tomorrow (5.15pm).And making things interesting is the fact that Barca were held 1-1 by lowly Hercules in their King’s Cup Last 32 first leg match on Wednesday, while Mariano scored a hat-trick as Real romped to a 6-1 second leg victory over third-tier Cultural Leonesa for a 13-2 aggregate triumph.

Isco, the Spanish international, has played well, worked hard and even scored some important goals, such as the one at Wembley. However, not even the absence of Gareth Bale has been able to strengthen the former Malaga man’s case as Real head into their biggest fixture of the campaign so far.

Zidane wants more muscle rather than creativity from his midfield and to that end, Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic will sit behind Luka Modric. The decision to leave Isco out will not be easy for the player to digest because inclusion in an El Clasico starting lineup indicates importance within the squad.

He won’t feel involved in the same way from the bench.

However, the coach believes Isco will play a fundamental role at the Camp Nou, something that has been made clear in recent days.He trusts the midfielder and values his recent response on the pitch after three months where he was hardly called upon.

Stopping Lionel Messi from encroaching anywhere near the box is paramount in Zidane’s mind and for this reason, he will set up a slightly staggered midfield, meaning that the Argentinian will have to beat both Kovacic and Casemiro if he wants to score for the home side.

Following their game against Hercules, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique told reporters: “In terms of the intensity, I didn’t see relaxed players.

“I’m not happy but we’ve tried to create problems for a team that has changed its system to have five players in defence.”

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