Isco cements place with Real Madrid's stars, as 'B Team' maintains title charge

Real Madrid remained on course for La Liga's title, with Zinedine Zidane resting a handful of starters in a rout of Granada.
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Real Madrid edged ever closer to making history this weekend. It’s still a surprise that for all the records he has achieved at the Santiago Bernabeu, the 399 goals, three Ballon D’Ors and two Champions League titles, that Cristiano Ronaldo has only ever won La Liga once in the last eight years.

That might change this season as Real Madrid, with its valuable game in hand (vs. Celta Vigo, which was finally rescheduled for May 17), kept pace with Barcelona with a 4-0 win over already-relegated Granada. It could have been worse had the visitor not taken its foot off the gas after scoring all four goals in the first half.

Coach Zinedine Zidande could afford to rest nine players from the midweek Champions League win over Atletico Madrid, and once again his nominal "B Team" did not let him down. James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata both scored twice, and this heavily-rotated second squad has won its last five games. Real Madrid’s stature in La Liga is partly down to having such a deep squad. Whether the two scorers have been happy enough with their opportunities to stay at the club beyond the summer remains to be seen, as there will be no shortage of offers for them.

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The same looked true of Isco earlier in the year, but since Gareth Bale’s latest injury, the Spaniard has been playing superbly as a No. 10 behind a Ronaldo-Karim Benzema strike force. It’s a sign of his evolution that he was also rested for the Granada game. Zidane took him off after an hour of the Atletico semifinal as he was on a yellow card and he did not want to risk a red. Isco has the ninth most appearances in the squad, and with nine goals, is the sixth-highest scorer behind Ronaldo, Benzema, Morata, James and Sergio Ramos.

Real Madrid has noted his improvement and, after extending the deals of all its top players, wants to push his deal beyond the current expiration of 2018. It has offered him the chance to be among the best-paid in the squad, but Isco wants guarantees of game time. That’s something he could get at almost all the clubs linked with him–the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Juventus and even Barcelona–but can Madrid promise that? If not, one of Madrid’s elite rivals will take the chance to build its team around a top talent.