Defeat to Girona on Sunday was the latest setback in what has been an uncharacteristically poor domestic campaign for defending champions, Real Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane has encouraged both his players and the club’s supporters to remain calm in a difficult moment, yet with Barcelona now sitting eight points clear of Los Blancos that is a difficult task.
The problem Real Madrid have is that this poor run is slowly turning into something other than the occasional bad result, in the 10 La Liga matches already played the club have already drawn twice and lost twice.
It is worth remembering that in their successful title winning campaign last year, they only lost three matches in total.
Many coaches have found themselves under real pressure at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for putting together a run such as this, though the Frenchman has bought himself a lot more time and patience with his quite sensational achievements to date.
A real cause for concern
With that being said, it is a poor run that is becoming a real cause for concern.
The players seem to be having difficulties in managing match fitness as well as overcoming adversity within the microcosm of a fixture.
The clash with Girona on Sunday was a perfect example. Los Blancos took the lead through the excellent Isco and then simply couldn’t keep control of the match. The Catalan club hit the woodwork twice in the first half before scoring twice in the second.
Real Madrid couldn’t recover, they didn’t have the wherewithal to bounce back and they slumped to another defeat.
Lack of depth
Whilst there are psychological problems within the squad at this time, one of the bigger concerns is the lack of depth that was such a prevalent part of Los Blancos’ makeup last term.
Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez are both international class footballers, they were substitute options in the Spanish capital last season. With both players being allowed to depart in the summer, Real Madrid have lost that ability to bring players off the bench who would likely be starters at any other team in the world.
It is not to say that Zidane doesn’t trust his bench players now, but it is certainly true that he doesn’t totally know what to expect from them.
Injuries to Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema haven’t helped, especially with the Welsh forward expected to be absent a little while longer.
Must turn things around soon
The problem with being a club on the scale of the defending European champions is that every mini crisis gets blown out of proportion. The reality though is that you can only disregard bad results for so long.
Los Blancos need to turn their fortunes around in La Liga, the worry supporters will have is that they haven’t even faced Los Cules or Atletico Madrid yet.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return of just one La Liga goal perfectly characterises the problems facing the team at this time. Every single player, maybe Isco aside, is performing under their best. This will inevitably have a negative impact on team cohesion and the ability to break teams down.
Ronaldo’s poor form doesn’t extend any further than the league though; he sits level with Harry Kane as the Champions League’s top scorer with five goals from the opening three group matches.
Wembley is the next destination for Real Madrid and they arrive without Keylor Navas, Raphael Varane and Gareth Bale, all missing through injury.
Tottenham Hotspur are sweating over the fitness of Harry Kane but it is a match that the Spanish giants can’t really afford to lose. They are in a good position in the group, but the knock such a bad result would do to an already fragile team morale could be disastrous.
A long run of victories is needed
You would imagine that Barcelona will drop points in the league eventually, Real Madrid have to be in a position to capitalise when they do.
A long run of victories is required to build both morale and a points tally; upcoming clashes with Las Palmas, Atleti, Malaga and Athletic Club are all now must-win matches.
Real Madrid’s season is not a calamity just yet, there is plenty of football left to play, yet what will be concerning to supporters is how the team has been given several warnings in the previous weeks and nothing has changed.
Zidane will continue to have the support of the board and the players but he has to figure out a way to get positive results again. It might simply be a case of cumulative fatigue with Los Blancos having taken part in the Club World Championship for the past two seasons.
Few could have anticipated how well Barcelona would start the season, especially when you look at the comparative individual qualities between their squad and Real Madrid’s.
They have a problem — it’s time for them to acknowledge it
This has exacerbated the poor run from the Madrid club but there can be no hiding from it any longer, Real Madrid have had a very poor start to the domestic season, it is no use to try and suggest there isn’t a problem when there evidently is.
Los Blancos need to overcome their struggles and start to put together results, simply not acknowledging the issue is a surefire way for it to continue and develop into a full blown crisis.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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