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Real Madrid’s La Liga race looks run after Girona surrender – however Spurs must beware the wounded champion

Back in the heady days of summer, Real Madrid were considered Europe wide as unbeatable and boasting one of the deepest and most talented squads ever assembled.

But the day after the clocks went back, their La Liga title race may already be run after a hugely embarrassing defeat at newly-promoted Girona in Catalonia amidst a backdrop of political turmoil.

The focus all week was on how Madrid would be received on their first trip to Catalonia since the torch paper was light on the political crisis by Spanish police wading into polling stations with batons on October 1.

Instead, as Girona celebrated among a festive atmosphere at Montilivi, it was the response of their own fans Madrid’s stars were left fearing after an insipid display left Real eight points adrift of Barcelona just 10 games into the La Liga season.

When the sides last met at the end of August, Barca were sent back to Catalonia with their tails between their legs having been thrashed 5-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup.

That was Madrid’s fourth trophy of the year following a first Champions League and La Liga double for 59 years and a footballing lesson for old boss Jose Mourinho and Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup for good measure.

However, Zinedine Zidane’s men are now paying for their efforts over the past 10 months – which also included a gruelling four-match pre-season trek across the United States.

When the sides last met at the end of August, Barca were sent back to Catalonia with their tails between their legs having been thrashed 5-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup.

That was Madrid’s fourth trophy of the year following a first Champions League and La Liga double for 59 years and a footballing lesson for old boss Jose Mourinho and Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup for good measure.

However, Zinedine Zidane’s men are now paying for their efforts over the past 10 months – which also included a gruelling four-match pre-season trek across the United States.

Zidane’s 22 months in charge have previously been littered with late fightbacks to bail out often under-whelming performances.

Real, from president Florentino Perez down, have been punished for resting on their laurels following back-to-back Champions League success.

Alvaro Morata, Pepe, James Rodriguez and Danilo were allowed to leave without being replaced as in a transfer market spiralling out of control, Real made a near €80million profit.

The club instead put their faith in young Spanish talent such as Jesus Vallejo, Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and Borja Mayoral, all of whom may yet come good, but lack the guarantees offered by Morata and Pepe’s quality and experience.

Madrid’s title run last season was built on having two teams capable of winning games like those in Girona. Now, with the regulars worn out, and reserves not up to the task, they don’t even have one.

Injuries and suspensions have also played their part. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane, Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Mateo Kovacic have all had prolonged spells on the sidelines already this season, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo missed the first four La Liga games of the season due to suspension.

The newly crowned player of the year by FIFA for his Champions League heroics in the spring, Ronaldo has struggled to find his form since returning. Just one La Liga goal to his name as November beckons is by a distance his worst return since moving to Madrid eight years ago.

And so, as the European champions travel to Wembley on Wednesday, there is nothing for Spurs to fear, right?

It may not be so simple. Zidane rejected suggestions Real always save their best for the Champions League, but a 3-1 win in Dortmund last month was by a distance their best performance since August.

Despite a resolute display, Mauricio Pochettino’s men would also have been put to the sword at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago but for the brilliance of Hugo Lloris.

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