Isco key for Real Madrid in Copa del Rey final

Dennis Grombkowski

With Cristiano Ronaldo sidelined, Isco will get a chance to prove he was worth the big transfer fee Madrid paid last summer.

There were high expectations for Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez -- better known as Isco -- when Real Madrid paid €30 million to Málaga for the 21-year-old's services last summer. He was Carlo Ancelotti's first big signing, and a promising young player who is poised to become one of the next stars for the Spanish National Team.

Ancelotti gave him a chance to earn his place from the start, regularly handing Isco a spot in the starting XI for the first half of the season. Then in January, Ancelotti began playing Ángel Di María in a deeper midfield role to help with his team's defensive structure. Another youngster, Jesé, also started getting more playing time as Madrid shifted from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3.

Much was made of Isco's defensive issues, and it didn't help that Di María excelled in the midfield, helping to stabilize Madrid's formation as Los Blancos went on a 19-match unbeaten run. Isco became the forgotten man of sorts, left to sit on the bench and pick-up minutes as a regular substitute.

Maybe it was too much, too soon on a big stage for Isco. Or perhaps he was being asked to play a role that didn't suit his talents.

In Madrid's second-leg Champions League quarterfinal match against Borussia Dortmund, Los Merengues were in trouble after allowing two first half goals. If Dortmund had scored once more, they could have forced extra time and gone on to a win. Then Ancelotti inserted Isco into the match at halftime, and he stepped up and had one his best performances of the season.

Isco didn't suddenly become a defensive wizard in the second half. Instead, he influenced the game by doing what Luka Modrić and Xabi Alonso couldn't in the first half: control the ball. He helped slow down Dortmund's attack, stifling all of the momentum they built up during the first half. It was an excellent performance, and proved Isco's value to Madrid by showing another dimension of his game.

With Cristiano Ronaldo unavailable for Wednesday's Copa del Rey final, Isco will likely be handed his second-straight start -- he was excellent against Almeria over the weekend, scoring a goal. Isco would play at left forward, a role normally filled by Ronaldo. While Isco is obviously not Ronaldo, the position is the ideal place for him to both make an impact and not have to be concerned with defensive responsibilities.

Ronaldo is never asked to track back to any great extent, so the Madrid midfield and defense are perfectly accustomed to playing around the space created by the Portuguese striker. Isco will be able to just slide right, play his attacking style and try to take advantage of Barca's mess of a defense and backup goalkeeper.

You really couldn't ask for a better situation for Isco to prove that he not only belongs with Real Madrid, but that he can help lead them to a trophy.

More from SBNation.com

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.