‘I’m counting on Isco’ says Solari ahead of Roma showdown

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari has reassured fans that playmaker Isco is still in his plans despite his limited game time.

Isco hasn’t started in any of the five games that Solari has been in charge for, playing just 74 minutes since Julen Lopetegui’s departure.

Solari was speaking in Rome ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League group stage tie with Roma on Tuesday night.

A win would guarantee qualification to the knockout stage as well as securing top spot in Group G.

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Since making the switch from Malaga to Real Madrid in 2013, Isco has been lauded as one of the great successes in the Madrid squad. He’s played a part in winning four Champions League titles, La Liga and the Copa Del Rey. Although a place in the starting eleven has never been a certainty for the midfielder, he brings technical ability and guile that very few others possess.

“He works well, on par with his teammates. He’s a very important player and I count on him as much as the other 23 players,” was Solari’s frank verdict on Isco’s lack of game time.

Luis Enrique made him captain of his country for the friendly against Bosnia 9 days ago but he is yet to earn the trust of his club manager it seems. He has fallen behind the likes of Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio when it comes to a place in midfield. Solari’s preferred 4-3-3 formation doesn’t accommodate Isco as well as Zinedine Zidane’s system used to.

Real Madrid travel to the Stadio Olimpico for the first time since 2016 when, under Zidane, they were 2-0 victors in the first leg of a Champions League last 16 tie. Cristiano Ronaldo and Jese were the goal-scorers that night as Los Blancos eventually progressed 4-0 on aggregate.

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“We have to play a match like we always do in the Champions League, follow the high standards we have set in this competition.”

Solari, who played for Madrid at the start of the century, was a Champions League winner in 2002 when Zidane’s stunning volley helped beat Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow.

A change of competition is a welcome distraction for the Argentine, who suffered his first defeat in charge as Madrid were humbled in Eibar on Saturday.

“It was a real beating, evidently, but it’s happened. We’ve analysed it, we have tried to improve what we need to improve. We’re in Roma, in another competition and our focus has to be here.”

 

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