Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final, the main question concerning team selection is whether Gareth Bale will be fit to feature at the Millennium Stadium.In his home town, the Wales international would love nothing more than to write Real Madrid into the history books in Cardiff, yet Bale is struggling to overcome an ankle injury ahead of the meeting with Juventus. While the player himself has hinted he is not yet fit enough to play in the match, pictures of him in training suggest otherwise and it remains to be seen whether the attacker is merely playing mind games or is genuinely ruled out for the encounter.This time last year, Bale’s absence would have spelt disaster for Real. Los Blancos’ famous BBC – Bale, [Karim] Benzema and Cristiano [Ronaldo] – helped the recently-crowned LaLiga champions to continental success at rivals Atletico Madrid’s expense – winning their 11th European Cup in Milan.Fast forward to the present day, though, and Bale’s potential nonappearance won’t be nearly as big a detriment this time out. Isco has benefitted more so than any other Real player during Bale’s spell on the sidelines, with the Spain international at long last stepping out the shadows to finally shine.Isco netted the crucial goal that killed the semi-final tie with Atletico following Los Colchoneros’ brief renaissance, and it’s his quick train of thought that will be required to pry apart the resolute Juventus backline. The Serie A champions have conceded just three goals en-route to Cardiff and just once from open play; they’re shipping goals at a rate of just one every 360 minutes, which is a monumental show of resolve to say the least.Yet, while Bale’s physical strengths can be nullified with the right approach, it’s easier said than done keeping Isco at bay.The 25-year-old may lack the speed of his Welsh teammate, yet his quick thinking on the ball enables him to play his way through midfields and around defences. Finding space between the lines in the final third is arguably his greatest quality, and against a backline of Juventus’ calibre this space in Real’s attack will be at a premium.He’s been aided in that head coach Zinedine Zidane has adjusted his system accordingly to benefit the Spaniard.Rather than stick with the tried-and-tested 4-3-3 formation that helped the LaLiga side in the past, the French head coach has looked to flex his tactical muscles by deploying a three-man defence and, more recently, a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Isco floating between the lines.This suits Real ahead of Saturday’s final for two reasons.The first is that this brings Cristiano Ronaldo infield to partner Benzema in a two-pronged attack. The France forward’s selflessness and willingness to run the channels takes the pressure off Ronaldo, who is then able to maximise his goalscoring prowess and operate closer to the opposition.Only Lionel Messi (11) has scored more goals than Ronaldo (10) in the Champions League this season. Six of those 10 have been netted when Isco has featured from the off, with Zidane’s decision to start him behind Ronaldo and Benzema profiting the team.Secondly, the 4-3-1-2 means Real have extra numbers in midfield to help stifle opponents.A midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric may be effective, but in a 4-3-3 formation there was often too much space left between the midfield and attack which heaped pressure on the aforementioned threesome. With Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale at times shirking their defensive duties, Zidane could have benefitted from having another body in the middle of the park and that’s where Isco proves his usefulness. He may not be the most physically imposing midfielder, but he still offered 2.6 tackles per 90 in league football last season, and is averaging 1.2 tackles per 90 in the Champions League.Isco’s defensive duties will prove essential on Saturday with Max Allegri expected to select a midfield pairing of Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic from the start.It’s of the utmost importance that Real keep the latter at bay if they are to write their name into the history books, as only Dani Alves (2.7) is making more key passes per game of all Juve players than midfield playmaker Pjanic (1.8) in the Champions League this season; if the Bosnian is able to spread play to the wings to maximise Alves’ and Alex Sandro’s marauding runs from deep, Real could be in serious danger of being overrun.Isco’s influence will be vital both defensively and offensively on Saturday evening. In 2017, only Cristiano Ronaldo (28) has been directly involved in more league and Champions League goals than Isco (14) of all Real players, while of the 115 players to score 10 or more goals in Europe’s top five leagues last season, only Max Kruse (36.6%) and Alexandre Lacazette (33.3%) had a better conversion rate than the former Malaga star (31.3%). If Real can get him on the ball as frequently as possible in the space between Juventus’ midfield and defence, he has the quality to create the necessary chances for his teammates as Los Blancos strive to secure a record-setting 12th European Cup.Conversely, if he can keep Pjanic and Khedira occupied in midfield, Juve may struggle to bring their best players into the game, leaving the Serie A giants disjointed in the process.For all of Real Madrid’s star quality, Isco could be their most important player in Cardiff. 1 Will Isco be the man to win Real Madrid their 12th European Cup?