January 2, 2019 / 4:10 PM / 9 months ago

Soccer: Solari backs forgotten Isco to restore joy to Madrid

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - December 15, 2018 Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari gestures REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari expects out-of-favour attacking midfielder Isco to remain at the club and rediscover the form that made him one of the team’s most important players over the past two years.

Isco has not started a league game since Solari succeeded Julen Lopetegui as Madrid coach at the end of October, but the team’s results have improved dramatically in his absence, with Real winning five out of six league games since the Argentine took charge.

The Spain international’s prolonged absence has sparked reports that he will seek an exit from the club, but Solari said Isco can work his way back to prominence at the Santiago Bernabeu

“Every player here has to be committed, dedicated and keep working with hope and excitement; they are all fundamental to us,” Solari told a news conference ahead of Real’s rescheduled game away to Villarreal on Thursday.

“Isco has given us a lot of joy and he has to keep doing that. He’s a magnificent footballer and, now that we have lost Marcos Llorente, Javi Sanchez and Mariano, we’re going to need everyone.”

Real’s 2018 was a year of highs and lows. A third successive Champions League triumph was followed by the Club World Cup title, but the team’s La Liga showing has been peppered with disappointments.

Victory over Villarreal would put Real level with Sevilla in third place, though they have not won their first away game of a new year since 2014.

“I have been told about this statistic and we will try to change it,” Solari said.

“We’ll try to play with commitment and energy. It’s a difficult date, but the competition doesn’t stop and we have to forget about the date.”

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by David Goodman

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