Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti's inability to get his team functioning properly is likely to cost the Italian his job with the European champions this summer, says Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague...
When Real Madrid have everyone available, like Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, physically on top of their games and on form, then they can beat anyone. Even if one of their three forward players is missing, and they have to play 4-4-2, which is what they did for most of their 22-game winning run. In fact, that is even better as it gives the team balance.
But it is quite clear that now they are not at their best physically and they have a problem in midfield in that they do not know what to do with the ball. And that is down to manager Ancelotti allowing the team to play with that physical power and pace, but not preparing them collectively to find different ways of attacking.
So it was all down to direct and counterattacking football and when Isco was fit they also played a controlled passing game, but it was not based on anything they had tried in training, mostly on individual quality.
However, now that Isco and Toni Kroos are struggling physically, Asier Illarramendi and Lucas Silva are lacking authority, as well as the injuries to James Rodriguez and Modric, then you get a Real that does not know how to play.
At half-time against Athletic Bilbao, Ancelotti told his players that if we continue playing like this, we will not win anything. But he obviously has to give more answers.
As a consequence, the Real hierarchy are now seriously considering parting company with Ancelotti in the summer and I will be very surprised if he is there next season.
In fact, they were even thinking of getting rid of him last season, but Ramos’s 94th-minute equaliser in the Champions League final against Atletico changed their plans. However, if his header had gone just a centimetre another way, then Ancelotti would have been sacked. So that is still in the backs of the club’s mind.
On top of that, there is not just a passing problem at Real, with the midfield not being able to find the forwards, but there is also a problem with the forwards themselves, who are struggling physically, meaning they are not moving enough.
Bale is still not working for the team as much as he should, or getting involved in the build-up play as he has the British way of thinking in that when he has the ball, he tries to do everything himself.
Ronaldo has not had a shot on goal in four of the last eight games, and Karim Benzema cannot do everything by himself, while he also has not been linking up with his team-mates as well as he was during their 22-game run.
So all in all it is a bit of a disaster. It can be fixed though from a coaching point of view and the return of Modric against Schalke and Ramos against Levante will of course be really good news for a team that on top of all this needs the type of leadership only a Ramos or Modric can give.
And it is now that you really start to feel the absence of Xabi Alonso, who used to tell the team what they needed to do on the pitch and to switch on, from Ronaldo, to Bale, to everybody. But they do not have that voice at the moment, especially with both Ramos and Modric having been out.