Real Madrid's James Rodriguez hails Isco, plays down Gareth Bale battle

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James Rodriguez says he is surprised at the quality of Real Madrid teammate Isco, while adding it is up to coach Carlo Ancelotti to decide whether to recall Gareth Bale to the team when he returns from injury.

Bale's most recent back problem has seen Isco and James start on either side of midfield in Madrid's last three games -- a 5-0 La Liga hammering of Levante, a 3-0 Champions League group-stage victory at Liverpool and then Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Barcelona in the season's first clasico.

The team's results, as well as the excellent passing football which has been on show, have led many Blancos fans and pundits to call for Bale to be benched when he returns to full fitness, although Ancelotti has maintained the Wales international will play when he is available.

Nevertheless, in an internet poll of 30,000 AS readers, 56.35 percent said they would leave out Bale, 25.47 percent would drop James, and only 18.18 percent would do without Isco in the starting lineup.

Such talk has led to speculation in the British media that Manchester United, who reportedly tried to sign Bale before he joined Madrid, have rekindled their interest in the former Tottenham player.

James told El Larguero that Ancelotti picked the team, while saying that the current XI is doing well at the moment.

"That is a technical decision," the Colombia international said. "I will keep working to be available to the boss. With the 4-4-2 we are more comfortable and the results have been good."

The 80 million-euro signing from Monaco last summer said that of all his new teammates, he had been most surprised by Isco's ability.

"All the [Madrid] players have a lot of quality," James said. "Maybe the one who has surprised me the most is Isco. I like him a lot."

James also revealed that he and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo had been confident at half-time in last weekend's clasico -- when the score was 1-1 -- that Madrid would go on and win the game.

"The team had a lot of faith," he said. "I saw they were getting tired at the back [Barca], they did not have intensity, they were leaving lots of spaces. I said to Cristiano: 'They're tired, we are going to attack them.' He said the same, that we had to attack. 'Go for it, go for it,' he told me."