At the start of the season, in the aftermath of their thumping of Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid were considered to be favourites to win everything.
Now, though, Los Blancos are on the brink of a crisis following a series of lacklustre performances at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu which has left them trailing league leaders Barcelona by seven points after five matches played.
Here are 10 factors which have led to the recent downturn in form.
1. Faltering forwards
If anything, Madrid’s success throughout its history has often been characterised by the clinical nature of its line-up of forwards. Indeed, the infamous ‘BBC’ triumvirate has played a large part in the side’s recent successes. So far this season, though, they have lacked cutting edge in front of goal, particularly at the Bernabeu where they have scored just three goals in three matches with a brace from Marco Asensio and a goal from Lucas Vazquez helping the side claim draws against Valencia and Levante respectively.
2. Anxiety at home
Los Blancos’ strength in the past has often been based around their formidable form at home. This season, though, the side have been struck by a serious epidemic of stage fright in front of their own fans.
Whilst a draw against Valencia should come as little surprise, poor performances against recently promoted Levante as well as Betis have left them claiming just two points from a possible nine.
This is in stark contrast to the club’s impressive performances at the Camp Nou, Estadio Riazor and the Estadio Anoeta.
3. Dubious refereeing
Their poor form has certainly not been helped by some dubious decisions made by officials in recent weeks, with president Florentino Perez hitting out at the poor state of officiating in LaLiga following Cristiano Ronaldo’s hefty five-match ban.
The referees came under fire again on Wednesday evening as protestations of time wasting from Real Betis players were dismissed.
4. Injury woes
Madrid’s poor form has certainly not been helped by a series of injuries to star name players. Zinedine Zidane has had to make do without stars the likes of Karim Benzema, Mateo Kovacic, Theo Hernandez, and more recently, Marcelo, and the lack of continuity in the squad has had a negative effect on their results.
5. New signings yet to make impact
Despite a number of high-profile signings during the transfer window, the likes of Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and Jesus Vallejo have yet to receive opportunities to make much of an impact.
Meanwhile, Theo and Borja Mayoral have yet to impress despite both having featured in parts this season.
6. Fullbacks lack penetration
Both Dani Carvajal and Marcelo are regarded two of the world’s best fullbacks, and when in fine form, both have proven to be tough to handle in attack and defence. Thus far, though, both have done little to offer the side an additional option in the final third and have been exposed on occasion in their own half.
7. Stars out of touch
The star-studded front-line have not enjoyed their best start, having missed a host of clear-cut chances against Valencia, Levante and Real Betis. With Ronaldo back though, one hopes they’ll find their finishing touch soon enough.
8. Zidane’s changes
It’s fair to say that some of Zidane’s substitutions have cost the side dearly so far. Against Betis, for instance, instead of replacing like-for-like players, the French tactician opted instead to overload the side with attackers. However, with their key midfielders on the bench, Madrid failed to carve their opponents apart in the final third.
9. Shaky defence
On their day, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane make up arguably the most formidable centre-back pairing in world football. However, the fact that they have conceded five goals already in their first five matches demonstrates how far they’ve sunk already.
10. Lifeless midfield
The midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco are known for their vision and accuracy to pick out a pass. Their inability to dominate play in recent weeks will be a worrying sign for Zidane.