By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA, March 17 (Reuters) - Real Madrid, who have all but sealed a place in the Champions League quarter-finals after their 6-1 first-leg away victory over Schalke, could hand Isco another opportunity to prove his worth in the return on Tuesday.
The playmaker has not been able to hold down a regular place in Carlo Ancelotti's side since his big-money move from Malaga.
Isco was one of the hottest properties on the market at the end of last season after a starring role for Malaga as they progressed to the last eight of the Champions League.
He was among yet another generation of young Spanish players who had come off the conveyer belt and his success with the Spain Under-21 side meant that a place in this year's World Cup squad was on the cards.
His strong technique, awareness and astute passes playing behind the forward line led to admiring glances from Europe's top sides but it was Real that beat the rest to his signature for a figure believed to be around 27 million euros.
Since then, however, it has not gone according to plan for Isco who has not been able to find a role in Real's expensively assembled squad.
He has been tried on the wings, in attack and a deeper role in midfield but
Part of the reason is that after a slow start to the season, the Italian has found success with a 4-3-3 formation that does not ideally suit Isco's attributes of picking the passes behind the forwards.
Still, Ancelotti has far from given up on the player and believes that Isco can adapt to a new position, comparing him to Dutchman Clarence Seedorf.
"He is pushing for a starting place. I have complete confidence in him. In the past I had a similar situation with Seedorf and plugging away he was able to become a key player for Milan," Ancelotti said earlier this month.
Isco was given the chance in midfield against Malaga at the weekend with Angel Di Maria left on the bench as he was only a booking away from a suspension.
He struggled to get involved in the game, though, and was taken off after an hour in the 1-0 win. But striker Karim Benzema's thigh injury, picked up in a collision with Cristiano Ronaldo, could give him a chance in attack against Schalke.
"When Isco was playing in midfield he did well and later he had to change position due to the knock for Benzema and he can do that role without any problems," said Ancelotti.
Benzema has undergone tests to establish the extent of the injury and while it is not thought to be serious he is unlikely to be ready to face Schalke.
His target will be the crunch match with Barca in La Liga at the weekend with Real holding a four point lead at the top over their bitter rivals. (editing by Justin Palmer)