MADRID: A cloud remains over struggling Real Madrid ahead of this weekend’s La Liga action, with the future of Spain midfielder Isco to the fore.
Real sit sixth in the table, behind the likes of Espanyol and Alaves, six points off league leaders Sevilla, while Saturday’s opponents Valencia are 11th.
Isco, who captained his country earlier this month, did not start last weekend’s 3-0 humbling at Eibar, and was left out of the squad completely for Tuesday’s Champions League victory at AS Roma.
The defeat to Eibar was Madrid’s fifth in 13 La Liga matches this season, just one fewer than they suffered in the whole of the last campaign.
Local media have reported that Isco has fallen out with new coach Santiago Solari, who has not named him in the starting lineup for any of his six matches in charge at the Bernabeu.
The situation surrounding the talented playmaker, who has previously been linked with moves to Manchester City, Barcelona and a host of Europe’s top clubs, has caused consternation among the club’s fans.
It remains to be seen whether or not he is involved this weekend when Valencia visit the capital.
“They’re decisions you take in the moment for certain situations. We’re here to make those decisions and that’s that,” Solari said when quizzed on Isco’s absence in Rome.
“Decisions are almost always sporting, except in exceptional circumstances — which is not the case here.
“Starting or being on the bench is a problem that doesn’t exist. We’re here to give our all, 100 per cent and to get picked that way. I’ve always seen it like that and I’m not giving it more importance. We’ve a squad of 24 players.”
Valencia, where Isco started his career but failed to nail down a first-team spot before moving to Malaga, come to the Bernabeu on the back of Champions League elimination.
They are, however, returning to form in the league, winning their last two games after picking up just one victory in their first 11.
Games between the two clubs are notoriously tight, with Real needing a late goal to secure a 2-2 draw in the corresponding fixture last season.
Barcelona, who lost top spot to Sevilla last weekend after drawing away at Atletico, host Villarreal on Sunday before the league leaders visit fourth-placed Alaves, who could go top themselves if they win and other results go their way.