Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui said losing his job is “the last thing” on his mind following another defeat – but should he be concerned?
Champions League holders Real slumped to a 2-1 defeat by Levante in La Liga at the Bernabeu on Saturday, their fourth loss in five games in all competitions.
“I feel more encouraged than ever to continue because the team gave their heart and soul on the pitch,” said Lopetegui, who took over in the summer.
“Sooner or later, we will come out of this. The dressing room was sad but the players are keen to lift themselves up and look to the next game.
“The players gave everything and we will get out of this situation.”
Can Real turn it around?
The table doesn’t look great…
Real are fifth in La Liga, four points behind leaders and reigning champions Barcelona after nine games.
And 14 points from a possible 27 makes this their worst start to a season since 2001-02, when they managed only 10 under manager Vicente del Bosque.
Real have taken a solitary point from their past four league games, their worst run since they went pointless in the final five games of 2008-09.
For some perspective, that run during Juande Ramos’ time in charge saw them concede 17 goals, including a humiliating 6-2 defeat by Barcelona.
However, this poor run extends beyond the league, with defeat against CSKA Moscow leaving Group G precariously balanced.
Real are without a win in five games in all competitions. They have not waited that long for a win since that miserable run in May 2009.
From goals galore to unable to score
Marcelo’s powerful 72nd-minute strike against Levante proved to be a consolation, but it at least ended Real’s run of 482 minutes without a goal – 17 shy of their longest drought from 1985.
Under previous manager Zinedine Zidane – and armed with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo – Real never failed to score in consecutive matches and enjoyed a 73-match scoring streak between April 2016 and September 2017.
But 13 goals this season is their worst tally after the opening nine La Liga games since 2004-05. They managed eight during that spell as the club – perhaps ominously for Lopetegui – cleared out two managers before December.
By this stage last season, Zidane’s side had managed 18 league goals, although Ronaldo contributed only one.
El Clasico on the horizon
After Champions League duties are dealt with on Wednesday – anything but a win over Plzen is likely to increase the pressure on Lopetegui – Real travel to Camp Nou to take on fierce rivals Barcelona on 28 October.
Barca leapt to the top of La Liga with a 4-2 win over Sevilla to put daylight between themselves and their upcoming visitors, but will be without Lionel Messi because of an arm injury. It is a league fixture Real have not won in the past two seasons.
Regardless of the outcome of that match, Spanish newspaper Marca says Lopetegui’s dismissal is “inevitable”.
It cites Lopetegui’s lack of experience at the top level and an inability to get his messages through to the players as reasons why Real president Florentino Perez will now look elsewhere.
And all this on a day Ronaldo became the first player to score 400 goals in Europe’s top five leagues…