- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Reserves who would be starters in a lot of other teams have been crucial to keeping Real Madrid afloat in the Spanish league and Champions League.

The likes of Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, James Rodriguez, and Alvaro Morata have ensured Madrid has stayed on a roll.

They didn’t lose any points on Wednesday when seven regular starters were rested and the reserves stepped up and beat Deportivo La Coruna 6-2.

“We have a phenomenal squad, and on Saturday I will have to pick a team again, it’s complicated,” coach Zinedine Zidane says.

“To me, there is no A team or B team. We are all on the same boat, and it’s going to be like that until the end.”

Madrid’s second-stringers have also taken care of business in victories against Sporting Gijon, Leganes, and Eibar, all matches in which Zidane fielded an alternative squad.

Like many other clubs, Madrid has a packed last month of the season. But more at stake than most.

Madrid is tied for the lead in the Spanish league with Barcelona, but has a game in hand. On Saturday, Madrid hosts Valencia.

On Tuesday, Atletico Madrid comes to the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

“It’s good to have 23 starters in the team, and it shows when there are changes in the lineup,” says Isco, a goal-scorer on Wednesday. “It’s important that, no matter who plays, you can’t notice a lot of difference. Madrid has one of the best squads in the world.”

Isco, a regular for Spain, thrives in nearly every outing he gets, prompting many Madrid fans to demand Zidane make him a starter.

Isco also scored twice in the 3-2 win at Sporting, and once in the 3-0 win at Leganes.

“We work hard to take advantage of the opportunities that the coach gives us,” the 25-year-old midfielder says. “Every team has its starting 11, but it’s important that when the other players have to play, that they do a good job.”

Isco was one of the players who recently complained of a lack of playing time, saying it was natural for the reserves to want more minutes.

Rodriguez, the Colombia international who was signed after excelling at the 2014 World Cup, also publicly talked about his discontentment at starting on the bench. Rodriguez scored as a substitute in the clasico against Barcelona last weekend, and netted twice on Wednesday against Deportivo.

Other players who have done well off the bench include Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio, and Alvaro Morata, the Spain striker who has four goals in his last four matches. Vazquez and Morata also scored on Wednesday.

“The players who have not been playing as much remain fully committed,” Zidane says.

“They are taking advantage of every chance that they get. It’s difficult to tell a player that he will not play in the next match after the type of performance that we had (on Wednesday).”

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni


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