By Kerry Hau - GOAL
Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos has backed manager Santiago Solari's decision to drop Isco from the Blancos first team, hailing his coach for making a "difficult decision".
Spain international Isco has yet to start any of Solari's 13 Liga matches to date, with speculation increasing that he will leave Santiago Bernabeu this summer should Solari remain in charge heading into next season.
In his absence, Los Blancos have turned their disappointing early-season form around, and now find themselves six points behind leaders Barcelona in the La Liga title race.
They head into Wednesday's meeting with Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run as they aim to win Europe's premier club competition for the fourth straight campaign.
And Kroos has backed Solari on the eve of their trip to Amsterdam for the strength he has shown in leaving out Isco despite pressure to reinstate the 26-year-old.
"At a club like Real Madrid you have 20 top players in the squad," he told SPOX and Goal.
"Managing it is brutally difficult. He [Solari] is not afraid to make tough decisions."
Solari is looking to reproduce the performances in Europe that Madrid produced under Zinedine Zidane, with the 1998 World Cup-winning midfielder having led the Spanish giants to a trio of Champions League titles during his two-and-a-half years in charge.
Zidane was hailed for his ability to tie together an undoubtedly talented but sometimes fractured squad at the Bernabeu before announcing his departure in the summer of 2018.
And while Kroos would not be drawn on the exact differences between the ex-France international and Solari, he has seen the team's tactical plan alter since the latter replaced Julen Lopetegui.
"I will not make comparisons. But a coach is of course what his team shows on the pitch.
"He gives the tactics, he sets the direction. And over the past few weeks, he has repeatedly said that we must attack our opponents earlier and with higher intensity. We are currently implementing this well."