5 ways Real Madrid can shake off their Bernabeu shackles
It is not unusual for Real Madrid to make headlines, but an insipid start to their defence of the La Liga title was magnified on Wednesday night when Real Betis left the Santiago Bernabeu with maximum points.
The result was Real Madrid's third home league game of the season, and after being held to a draw in each of the previous two games by Valencia and Levante, questions are now being asked about how the Los Blancos can reverse this regrettable form.
Make no mistake, Real Madrid have not become a bad side overnight. They still boast a wealth of individual talent that is being collectively masterminded into shape by Zinedine Zidane.
The manager has claimed successive UEFA Champions League trophies since taking over in January 2016, and in the past week, agreed terms on a new contract to extend his stay.
However, the pressure is now well and truly on the former France midfielder to end this dismal run while rivals and current La Liga leaders Barcelona are still in catching distance.
And, it is the form of Barcelona under new manager Ernesto Valverde that is serving only to accentuate Real Madrid's slide.
Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a 6-1 win over Eibar at the Camp Nou just 24 hours before Madrid were humbled at home by Betis.
Messi's four-goal haul was in direct contrast to Cristiano Ronaldo's efforts, and their failure to find the back of the net in the 1-0 defeat meant that the side had failed to score for the first time in an incredible run of 73 consecutive games.
However, it is not all bad for Zidane and his Real Madrid side, as the problems that they are experiencing can be fixed.
In addition, the side have claimed victories against Deportivo La Coruna and Real Sociedad on the road in La Liga this season, and comfortably disposed of Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa with an aggregate 5-1 win.
The side also started the season with silverware with a win over Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup, with Zidane claiming that particular honour for the second time since his arrival.
So, what do the side from the capital need to do to shake the shackles of their current Bernabeu hoodoo?
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The last time that Bale, Benzema and Cristiano started for Real Madrid the side were storming past Juventus in Cardiff to become the first team to retain the UEFA Champions League in its current format.
However, a combination of rest, injury and suspension has left Zidane without the collective services of his preferred front three, and it is starting to show.
Although Isco and Marco Asensio have stepped-up to the mark and made the most of their opportunities, they still lack the understanding that has defined the attacking play of the team in recent seasons.
On Wednesday, Bale and Ronaldo started together for the first time, and there was an extra edge to Real Madrid in attack, despite the lack of a goal return.
However, their presence alone dictates that the opposition must pay extra attention to their defensive responsibilities, and it is their collective influence above their statistical goal return that should be measured when assessing their overall contribution.
If Karim Benzema had been available to complete the trio on Wednesday night, with the chances created, there is every reason to believe that the result would have been different.