Problems continue to mount for Real Madrid & Lopetegui

Real Madrid in crisis following worst start in 17 years

Everyone expected this to be a slightly more difficult season than what the supporters are used to for Real Madrid, but no one quite expected it to be this tough. The summer departures of two club icons in Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane meant that they were stepping into slightly unknown territory and so far the outlook is very bleak. On Saturday they went down to a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of La Liga minnows Levante in front of a packed crowd at the Bernabeu - meaning that they've now gone 5 games without a victory.

4 of those fixtures have ended in defeats which has resulted in their worst start to a league campaign since 2002 - so the pressure is certainly on head coach Julen Lopetegui. The 52 year-old was a controversial choice as Los Blancos boss after walking out on the Spanish national team just a couple of days before the World Cup and if the rumours are true he could be out of work again very soon. The defeat on Saturday has led to intense speculation around his future and many reports claim he could be sacked before their Champions League clash with Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday - that's just TWELVE games into his tenure. It's been an eventful start to the campaign to say the least, so read below to hear our take on matters at the Bernabeu...

Marcelo Real Madrid
The problems are mounting up for the Champions League holders

Statistics make damning reading for Lopetegui

Whoever came in to replace Zinedine Zidane this summer at the Bernabeu had enormous boots to fill, and ultimately it looks like Julen Lopetegui is not going to be that man. The former Spain boss took over a side that's won 3 successive Champions League titles so the expectations were massive, but just 12 games in it looks very bleak for him. Los Blancos have won only 4 of their opening 9 La Liga games (5 all comps) which already leaves them 5 points behind leaders Barcelona, so something needs to change soon to prevent the gap getting bigger. They've failed to win any of their previous 4 league games which includes 3 defeats and goals are becoming a serious problem.

There were calls from many sections of the supporters for the club to spend big money on Cristiano Ronaldo's replacement following his €100m move to Juventus, with Eden Hazard, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe heavily linked. However, instead the only striking re-enforcement they brought in was Lyon forward Mariano Diaz, exercising a buy-back clause in what was a pretty underwhelming transfer. Mariano has hit just 1 goal in 6 appearances since returning to the Bernabeu and he's not alone in struggling to hit the back of the net. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Isco have just 8 league goals between them in 23 appearances which just isn't good enough and on the weekend they made history for all the wrong reasons.

Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo hit 450 goals in just 438 games for Real Madrid and his departure has hit them incredibly hard.

Marcelo's strike in their 2-1 home defeat to Levante ended a dreadful run of 481 minutes without a goal, ensuring that Real set a new club record. Marco Asensio's effort against Espanyol on 20th September was their last goal before the Brazilian's effort, meaning they set a new record for the longest drought in the clubs 116 year history. For the last few years they've been one of the most prolific sides on the continent so it doesn't take a genius to work out that the absence of Ronaldo has hit the club very hard. But with the winter transfer window still a few months away, Lopetegui has to work with what he's got and there's still more than enough quality for them to get back on track and performing - if he's given the time of course.

Writing on the wall for Lopetegui?

Real Madrid and Florentino Perez in particular are known for being trigger happy when it comes to managers. The expectation level at the club is sky-high so their current plight will have undoubtedly led to some serious questions being asked behind the scenes - despite the current boss being only 12 games into a 3 year contract. Results haven't been good enough but the performance level will certainly have alarm bells ringing at board level in Madrid, so it wouldn't surprise us if they opted to make an early change. Lopetegui was low down the list in terms of replacements for Zidane, with Mauricio Pochettino, Massimiliano Allegri and Julian Nagelsmann all ahead of him in the pecking order so Perez could quite easily issue his marching orders.

On Tuesday night they take on Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League before a mammoth clash with Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Sunday, in the first El Classico of the campaign. If he does manage to survive through to the weekend then you'd think that the match in Catalonia would all but confirm whether he's the man for the job - so it's a massive 7 days coming up for the 52 year-old.

Julen Lopetegui Real Madrid
Julen Lopetegui has looked lost figure on the touchline at times this season

It seems bizarre how a side that has dominated like Real have over the years can just drop of, with key men such as Marcelo, Luka Modric and Marco Asensio really struggling to deliver the consistency that we've seen in recent seasons. The loss of Ronaldo and Zidane are clearly huge factors but could this be a case of mental fatigue? This is a side that's remained a unit for the last 4/5 years and have won pretty much every honour available so the motivation to do it all again could be hard to find. Or could it be that Lopetegui has lost the dressing room already after 12 games? Sure they've created plenty of chances, but off the ball the desire to track back and win possession just hasn't been there which is hugely concerning.

What happens next?

It's important to remember that Real really struggled in La Liga last season too. Zinedine Zidane's position was constantly under scrutiny as they finished a massive 17 points behind eventual winners Barcelona, with their Champions League victory in Kiev papering over the cracks. The lack of investment in the summer really hasn't helped Lopetegui and you really get the feeling that he's a dead man walking, despite the fact the fans mainly blame Perez for the disastrous start. A poll in Madrid based newspaper Diario AS resulted in 85% of supporters naming the club president as the man responsible, but this won't save Lopetegui from what looks like the inevitable sack.

Some bookmakers are reacting to the reports by offering markets on the next Real Madrid manager. SkyBet have former Los Blancos attacker Santiago Solari as the early front runner, priced up at 6/4. Closely followed by former Premier League duo Antonio Conte (7/4) and Arsene Wenger (5/1). If Lopetegui is to go you really feel that his replacement will be very much a short term one, so expect another move for Pochettino or Allegri in the close season in what should be a summer of big spending by Real.

SEE MORE: Next Permanent Real Madrid Manager Odds