Madrid, Spain: Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos warned those writing off the European champions will be “put in their place” despite an alarming slump in form that has left them eight points off Barcelona at the top of La Liga after just 10 games.
A 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Wednesday followed hot on the heels of a shock 2-1 reverse at promoted Girona as for only the second time in his short managerial career, Zinedine Zidane’s side have lost back-to-back matches.
“Real Madrid always come back and put everyone in their place. Those that write us off will be put in their place,” said a bullish Ramos.
Madrid should be eased back into winning ways when Las Palmas visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday with their coach Pako Ayestaran’s job already under threat after four straight league defeats since he took charge in late September.
However, Real’s poor early season form has raised questions over their pre-season recruitment.
As other Champions League contenders spent hundreds of millions, Madrid made a 75 million euro ($90 million) profit as Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez, Pepe and Danilo were allowed to leave.
Real continued with their policy in recent seasons of recruiting the best young talent in Spain.
But Cristiano Ronaldo admitted they lack the same experience as the squad that claimed a first league and Champions League double for 59 years last season, whilst prolonged injuries to Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale have also exposed their strength in depth.
“The players that have arrived have a lot of potential. Pepe, Morata, James made us stronger, but those that are here now are younger,” said Ronaldo.
“We also miss Carvajal and Bale. It’s not a worse squad, it just doesn’t have the same experience and that is very important.
“It isn’t an excuse and there is no reason to set the alarm bells ringing.”
Indeed, at the same stage last season, Madrid coughed up a 2-0 lead in an empty stadium away to Legia Warsaw to draw 3-3 as performances were questioned before they clicked into gear in the spring.
However, Barcelona’s club record start to a La Liga season has left Zidane’s men with precious little room for error.
The Catalans welcome Sevilla to the Camp Nou on Saturday with the chance to open up an 11-point gap on Real on a run of 14 wins and two draws in their last 16 matches.
Barca were held 0-0 draw at Olympiakos in midweek and have a mounting injury list to cope with as Sergi Roberto and Andre Gomes picked up hamstring injuries that will keep them out for a month.
Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha and Arda Turan also remain sidelined, whilst captain Andres Iniesta faces a race against time to shake off a thigh problem.
Sevilla, though, have lost their last four games in La Liga and Champions League on the road, conceding 12 times in the process.
Barca’s closest challengers are Valencia, four points back, as they too are off to a club record start.
Marcelino Garcia Toral admitted this week Valencia’s start has been far beyond his wildest dreams and an eighth straight win in all competitions when Leganes visit the Mestalla on Saturday lunchtime will close the gap to a solitary point at the top.
Atletico Madrid are level with cross city rivals Real in fourth but in need of a reaction to a dreadful week as their Champions League campaign looks over after being held 1-1 at home by Azerbaijani champions Qarabag.
Diego Simeone’s side have been dogged by their inability to score goals, particularly on the road as they have found the net just four times in their last seven away games.
Real Betis v Getafe (11 pm)
Valencia v Leganes (3 pm)
Deportivo la Coruna v Atletico Marid (6.15 pm)
Alaves v Espanyol (8.30 pm)
Barcelona v Sevilla (10.45 pm)
Levante v Girona (2 pm)
Celta Vigo v Athletic Bilbao (6.15 pm)
Villarreal v Malaga (8.30 pm)
Real Sociedad v Eibar (8.30 pm)
Real Madrid v Las Palmas (10.45 pm)