Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insists “I’m not unfair” with his rotation policy but admits “Isco not playing in every game is complicated”.
Isco has scored 10 goals and assisted a further seven in just 22 starts for Madrid this season, prompting calls for him to be given an extended run as a starter, and Zidane confessed he was facing a dilemma with the midfielder.
“How to face the end of the season? In the same way, we’re very good, what we’ve done so far is phenomenal,” the Coach said at a Press conference.
“In a season, there are moments of suffering, but we can be positive with what we’re doing and what we’ve done. Now comes the most beautiful part of the season.
“Doubts for the game against Malaga? It’s noise and I’m not interested in it. I’m interested in [Saturday’s] game.
“First or second team? I’ve known since I started here that I have an extraordinary set of players, they’re all involved and know that they’re playing for Madrid.
“We play in every game, in the League, the Champions League… Beyond the quality we have is our sincerity.
“What we want is everyone to be on the same page, everyone can think or say if they play more or less, but I have to make decisions on that.
“How I’m feeling in the dugout? Stoked!
“Rotations? For me, it’s not like before, when we had less games. You’d play 30 or 40 games and you could do things with just 12 or 13 players.
“I have very good players. I don’t think it’s about being brave, it’s my thinking. I’m not the person who's going to sit Cristiano [Ronaldo] or Gareth [Bale] down.
“I talk to the players, I try to explain my thinking to them and we go forward together, we’re on the same path and we have the same idea. You have to make your players understand that this is the way forward.
“There are times in the season when you can have doubts, but not now. The players are convinced.
“Does the debate upset me? No, I understand, but now I’m the Coach of Madrid.
I make decisions on what I have to do. All I think about is Real Madrid and my family.
“Convincing Ronaldo to be a No 9? He’s always played out wide, but from time to time, thanks to his quality, he can play as a centre-forward.
“Still, his position has always been a wide forward and no-one’s going to change that. He’s scored 400 goals from out wide.
“I don’t think I’m being unfair but the other way around, I have immense respect for my players, of course I have to make decisions, but I’m not unfair.
“There’s another place, another club and another situation where substitutes don’t even get a minute.
“They play when the Coach needs them and normally it’s late [in a game], but not for me.
“I have to choose 11 players and you can think that in some games, the same players always play, hence there being A and B [teams], but not for me.
“Explaining to Isco that he won’t play? That’s what I’m here for. It’s difficult, I’ve been a player and I always played or almost always did.
“Given his performances, how Isco’s feeling and not playing every game is complicated. I try to talk to him, but I won’t talk nonsense to a player.
“We have a game [on Saturday], we have another one on Tuesday, Isco is plugged in and has the confidence of his Coach. We’ll continue until the end as we areand next year we’ll see, as I always say.
“How I decide rotations? It’s not that I have a single idea or a player in my head, there are many parameters that I have in my mind, such as how the player is, how our opponents play… I have many options that are very good and who can play in many positions.
“It's one of this team’s advantages, it’s not just a player that defines who I play.”
Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco, Ronaldo, Benzema
Injuries/suspensions: Bale, Coentrao, Pepe (all injured)
Valencia: Alves; Montoya, Garay, Mangala, Gaya; Parejo, Medran, Soler; Nani, Mina, Munir
Injuries/suspensions: Abdennour (I) Cancelo (S) Enzo (I) Mario (I) Rodrigo (I) Zaza (S)
Referee: Gil Manzano
Form guide: Madrid (W L W D W) Valencia (L L D W W)
Previous meeting: Valencia 2-1 Real Madrid
Kick-off time: 15:15 BST/16:15 CET (LIVE on Football Espana!)