Lopetegui's 5 in 15: the big tests ahead for Real Madrid
After the international break Los Blancos have a run of games in just two weeks that could potentially define their season, and the future of the manager.
The international break is over. Manager Julen Lopetegui is now aware of the impact that the so-called 'FIFA virus' has had on his Real Madrid squad. Now he has to ready himself and his troops for the next 15 days, a period in which they will face five opponents, in what will be a pivotal moment for the club.
Madrid's 5 games in 15 days
Real Madrid start the sequence of games on Saturday against Levante at 13:00 local time. In itself it is not the most eye-catching of encounters, but the home crowd inside the Santiago Bernabéu will expect nothing less than three points, and an improved performance, ahead of the more significant challenges.
In terms of games that catch the eye, there are few more attractive in world football than El Clásico. The Camp Nou battle comes on Sunday 28 October (16:15 CEST) and many see that as the potential end game to Lopetegui's short tenure with Los Blancos if it was to end in a humiliating defeat. However, if Madrid were to stumble in either the Levante game or their mid-week Champions League clash with Viktoria Plzen (Tuesday 23 October, 21:00 CEST) ahead of the Barça test, the decision on high may have already been made.
After the Clásico, the situation surrounding the manager and the team will be clearer, with Madridistas praying that a solution to the current goal drought can be found. Next up will be the commencement of their Copa del Rey journey, with their opponent - from the second or third tier - decided in the draw this Friday. It is expected that Lopetegui, assuming he is still in charge, will use that opportunity to blood more of his younger squad members, giving a much-needed rest to his stars. Those players will then be ready to complete this post-international block of five as Madrid legend Ronaldo's Valladolid head to the capital on November 3rd (16:15 CEST).
How different the picture may look by then...