By prioritising the Champions League, the last year and a half has seen Barcelona's dominance over Los Blancos grow to worrying extremes.
Since winning LaLiga 2016/17 under Zinedine Zidane, a brilliant double along with the Duodécima - the 12th European Cup - Real Madrid have somewhat neglected their domestic league competition. Last season they had given up by December, and in this year's campaign they are close to throwing in the towel again way too early. The deficit over a season and a half is embarassing: Madrid collecting 27 fewer points than Barcelona (133 to 106). Even Atlético have picked up more over that time (114).
Madrid have been prioritising the Champions League over other competitions. Last season they bid farewell to the Copa del Rey after a solid 'cucumbering' at the hands of Leganes (one of the reasons why Zidane decided to leave) and their league form was even worse. One of the consequences of this drop in performance is that we are seeing a fall in the attendances at the Santiago Bernabéu. Madrid are not engaging in the league competition and this is not just a trend, it has become chronic.
Since the return of Florentino Pérez to the presidential chair, the club has only added two league titles, under Mourinho (2011/12) and Zidane (2016/17). In that same period, Barcelona have sung the alirón six times. Triple the number of their capital rivals, and each one closing the historic advantage that Los Blancos have had, Barça now on 25, chasing the record 33.
Solari's lowered expectations
It would seem that the demands to win LaLiga for Madrid have been lowered. This is the only explanation for Santiago Solari's words in the recent game against Real Sociedad, which ended 2-2. "We have gone from ninth to fourth," said the Argentine, who was also keen to point out that "we should never underestimate getting a draw."
"We should never underestimate getting a draw"
This is a Madrid side that have also turned their back on an historic ally: goalscoring. They are currently enduring their worst league drought in a quarter of a century, and last season there were warning signs too. Based on our reflection of the last season and a half, Los Blancos have scored 29 goals less than Barcelona (120 to 149) and the goal difference is even more striking: +47 for the Catalans.
These statistics all reflect a league problem at the Bernabéu over the longer term, but that cannot be used as an excuse in the immediacy of the moment. Sunday offers Solari and his men a chance to move back into fourth place in the table, lifting them above Alavés, however, a loss in Heliópolis would see Betis climb to just one point of the capital giants.
The question of Real Madrid not qualifying for the Champions League seems unthinkable, but it is one that is being quietly pondered. And reliance of winning a fourth consecutive continental title can surely not be the answer.