Zidane avoids endorsing Isco ahead of Real Madrid v Bayern

Sometimes I wonder what purpose there is having the manager's pre-match press conference. Yesterday, all the interest, understandably, was on whether or not Isco would fill the void left by Bale with his umpteenth injury. Zidane would only say that he had already decided but that he would not yet announce it. They know: football is the only spectacle where you pay your entrance fee without knowing what you are going to see. I'm not complaining. Football is like this and it is accepted. As Bill Shankly once said, when asked by a journalist for his team's line-up on the eve of a Liverpool European Cup game: "I'll not give this information to the opposing side. If it were up to me, they wouldn't know the time of the game".

Isco and Kroos | enjoying training ahead of Bayern challenge

Isco the right solution for Bale

What I don't know is how Zidane will manage if he leaves Isco out. It's true that he has three alternative solutions, going by the names of James, Lucas Vázquez and Asensio. Three exceptional players, all victims of the species of golden calf that is the BBC, and it turns out that of all the potential substitutes (right now an unfair term) to Bale, the fourth, Isco, is in the best form. An excellent player, going through one of those periods when, as a sportsman, he can do no wrong. Leaving him out today, after his performance in Gijón and with Bale missing, would be scandalous. But still, Zidane deflected...

Things change | Ex-Real Madrid's midfielder Xabi Alonso vies with Bayern Munich's midfielder Mario Goetze in the 2014 Champions League semifinal.

Time to break the Madrid-Bayern deadlock

It's better that Isco plays. When players are in the form he is it should not be wasted. But, although that is important, there is a bigger picture at stake. Madrid and Bayern have played 10 knockout ties in European competition. There is no equivalent duel. Each of them has gone through on five of those occasions. This one, the eleventh or "undécima" (a number Madrid are fond of) will break the deadlock. I look back on the many episodes between the sides, some unfavourable to Madrid, some very unfavourable. I think if Madrid could remove some of its historical fixtures from memory, more than half would be skirmishes with Bayern. Today, hopefully with Isco, it's time for them to move a step ahead.

Update 12 May 2017: James has reached an initial agreement with Manchester United.