After 481 minutes, Real Madrid’s goalscoring drought finally came to an end. Marcelo’s strike against Levante was too little too late not just as Madrid ultimately still fell to a shock 2-1 home defeat but the club record for a lack of goals was surpassed by 16 minutes.
Furthermore, the defeat confirmed Los Blancos were on their worst run of form since May 2009 when they lost their final five league games under Juande Ramos. Then, the boss was toast and current incumbent Julen Lopetegui is in danger of suffering a similar fate.
Indeed, there is a small element of surprise that the former Porto boss remains in situ going into the Champions League clash with Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday, and barring another disaster, he will lead his side into Sunday’s El Clasico.
The general consensus that these are now the end days for Lopetegui who is dominating the headlines in Spain for all the wrong reasons for the second time in the space of four months. On the eve of the World Cup, he was sacked from his role as Spain boss after Madrid unveiled him as their new boss. “The worst day of my life,” as he recalled. Now, his self-confessed ‘dream job’ has turned into another nightmare.
Whilst the Coach is the usual ‘fall guy’ when such a horrid run of results take place, the blame stretches far beyond his door alone. This is the same group of players who finished a whopping 17 points behind Barcelona last season and who failed to replace Cristiano Ronaldo – the club’s all-time record goal scorer. The Portuguese hit 450 goals in nine years in the Spanish capital and, whilst Mariano Diaz has returned from Olympique Lyonnais, the problems in front of goal are clear.
Defeat at the Camp Nou on Sunday will almost certainly spell the end for Lopetegui and in truth, only a win will suffice to silence the critics. The absence of Lionel Messi could define the match, the outstanding player for Barcelona, the league and the world. Perhaps the Argentine’s injury will allow the visitors to take more risks and attempt to take control of the game.
Lopetegui’s style of play is based not only on controlling possession but also territory, instructing his side to press high up the pitch and win the ball in dangerous areas. Such attacking liberty may not prove more straightforward with the defence having one fewer star to worry about. If the former Spain boss cannot find a solution immediately to his side’s attacking problems, his 2018 will have descended into an outright disaster.
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