Zidane hails influential Isco

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has come out in praise of Isco after the Spanish playmaker’s brace against Espanyol on Sunday.

Los Blancos have struggled at home this season, but the 25-year-old’s goals sealed a 2-0 win, their first of the campaign at Santiago Bernabeu to move up to fifth in the standings.

"He's looking very confident," Zidane said. "He knows how important he is to Real Madrid.

"He plays as if it's a kick-about and I like that. He keeps going and if things don't come off for him, he's patient and he doesn't panic.

"He's comfortable out on the pitch, with his team-mates, and I'm thrilled that we're seeing the best of Isco more and more."

Madrid’s stumbling start to the campaign leaves them seven points adrift of league leaders Barcelona, who have won seven out of seven, and Zidane is expecting a tough year ahead.

"It's true that this league campaign is going to be very difficult," he added. "I don't think it's going to be a fight between two or three teams.

"It's good for the competition because we realise that it is the most difficult in the world and there will be more competition this year.

"The teams have strengthened well and play very well, the games are going to be more complicated and more entertaining."