MADRID: Zinedine Zidane has one last dilemma to solve before Real Madrid takes on Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday.
Will he go with the overpowering Gareth Bale in attack or keep the creative Francisco “Isco” Alarcon in midfield?
“It’s going to be a difficult decision,” Zidane said. “They are two very good players who have been important for us. Bale has played less minutes but he has recovered from his injury. And we already know what kind of player Isco is.”
Bale was a regular starter for Zidane until a right ankle injury sidelined the Wales forward for nearly three months earlier this season. Isco successfully took over Bale’s place in the squad and quickly became an important member in Zidane’s team.
“Whatever decision (Zidane) makes, that’s final. I completely understand it,” Bale said. “I think Isco has been fantastic. He has been playing very well the last few weeks. He has helped the team.”
The 27-year-old Bale has the disadvantage of limited playing time in the latter stages of the season. He missed the second leg of the quarterfinal against Bayern Munich and both semifinal matches against Atletico Madrid because of problems stemming from the ankle injury.
On Tuesday, he said he has recovered but still wasn’t at “100 percent.”
Zidane said Bale is ready to play, but didn’t give any hints on whether he would include him in the starting lineup or keep him on the bench.
Even Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri weighed into the debate, saying the characteristics of the Madrid team change significantly depending on which player is in the lineup.
“With Bale, they gain more depth,” Allegri said. “If Isco plays, he is a lot more technical.”
Zidane said there was even a chance that both Bale and Isco would make it to the final.
“They can play together as well,” Zidane said. “It happened in other 16 matches this season and maybe it can happen again in the final.”
If Zidane makes that decision, he would likely take Karim Benzema out of the lineup.
If only Bale plays, Madrid would have three men in the attack along with Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But if Zidane goes with Isco, the Spanish national would play between the midfielders and the forwards. Isco thrived in that position, becoming one of the team’s best players late in the season.
“With the 4-3-3 you can play more from the sides, with two players on the wings in the front,” midfielder Toni Kroos said. “And with the 4-4-2 you have two strikers in the middle, of course it changes the way we play, not only on offense, also defense. The coach will tell us what is best against this team on Saturday.”
Bale scored a goal when Madrid defeated city rival Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final. He also was a starter in last season’s final. Isco was a second-half substitute in both finals.--AP