Madrid - Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is likely to return from a lengthy injury layoff in the Champions League last 16 second leg at home to Schalke 04 on March 10, coach Carlo Ancelotti said on Saturday.
Modric, who hurt a thigh muscle playing for Croatia against Italy in November, returned to training on Feb. 19 but has not been called up for Sunday's La Liga game at home to Villarreal.
"He won't be in the squad," Ancelotti told a news conference.
"He has worked well with the team the past week but he needs to work more," added the Italian. "We are thinking about him for the Schalke game."
Real, who won this month's first leg at Schalke 2-0, have missed the control Modric gives them in central midfield.
At the same time his absence has given Isco a chance to prove his worth and the Spain playmaker has won over the Real fans with some classy performances.
Ancelotti said Isco would retain his place in the team, giving the coach a potential headache over who to leave out with Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Sami Khedira, Asier Illarramendi and new signing Lucas Silva vying for a midfield spot.
"If he (Isco) is fit he will always play, it's non-negotiable," Ancelotti said. "It's tough to say which position is best for him because he has shown he can play in many.
"He has also surprised us playing as one of two holding midfielders but I think we should use him more in attack than in defence."
Real could have their lead at the top of La Liga cut to a point by the time they take to the pitch on Sunday as second-placed Barcelona are playing at Granada later on Saturday.
Champions Atletico Madrid, in third, are a further three points adrift of Barca ahead of Sunday's match at fifth-placed Sevilla.