Real Madrid travel to Barcelona for Saturday's Clasico in the middle of one of their worst crises in recent times. After consecutive home defeats to newly promoted Cadiz and a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk side, the gravity of the situation is one that Zinedine Zidane has not had to deal with in his time as Real Madrid coach, neither last season nor in his first spell at the club.
These defeats came not in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu but at the Alfredo Di Stefano ground in Valdebebas, which is all the more puzzling given that it was there that they put together a late run of six wins on the bounce last season to overtake Barcelona and win the LaLiga Santander title.
As worrying is that Los Merengues conceded four times in the two games, but it could have more given the number of times that Thibaut Courtois kept out their respective opponents.
They will need to find some form quickly if they want to come away from the Camp Nou with a positive result. And perhaps it's best that the Clasico has arrived at this juncture, as there exists no better fixture to provoke an upturn after a slump.
Barcelona suffered a disappointing league defeat themselves last Saturday, but they were back to winning ways in the Champions League on Tuesday night, seeing off Ferencvaros 5-1 in a performance that will give them confidence ahead of their encounter with their great rivals.
With the teams three points apart in the league table, as Real Madrid have played a game more, the result won't be a decisive one. But it's vital for Zidane to get his team back on track as he is starting to be questioned. His players are used to getting back up again after setbacks, but after two such awful defeats they need to produce something now.
Source: Marca / Pablo Polo - Rob Hemingway