Everything should be rosy at Real Madrid this season. They have a collection of some of the world's best footballers and arguably the world's best manager who together claimed the Spanish league title last season.
That triumph came after three years of dominance by bitter rivals Barcelona, who Real beat to the Spanish Super Cup at the start of the current campaign and also held to a 2-2 at the Nou Camp back in October.
They have already secured their path through to the knockout phase of the Champions League and have rarely had a better chance of securing their 10th European crown this term.
But it is not all going swimmingly at the Bernabeu this term. The defeat to Real Betis Saturday has left them 11 points behind league leaders Barca, and the team received a decidedly mixed reception from the home crowd during their Copa del Rey tie against Alcoyano on Tuesday.
Here are five reasons why Real Madrid are still falling short of their potential this season.
Due to a variety of injuries among the defensive element of the squad, Real have been unable to field a regular, settled back four this season.
Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao, Alvaro Arbeloa and—most recently—Raul Albiol have all missed games at various points this season, leading to plenty of changes in defence for Los Merengues. Even Michael Essien has had to fill in at full-back at times.
With the once-dependable Ricardo Carvalho no longer part of Mourinho's first-team plans, Real have also been lacking a steady, first-choice central partnership which has contributed to their three league defeats so far this term.
Given the quality which runs right through the squad, there was no great clamour for Real to make a raft of signings during the summer transfer window.
However, the big-money addition of playmaker Luka Modric and the loan from Chelsea of defensive midfielder Michael Essien have proven to be insufficient.
The absence of Sami Khedira—who has only started five league games—and the two games missed by Xabi Alonso have espoused a surprising gap at the base of the Real midfield, and the aforementioned fitness problems in defence have not helped matters either.
When a team succeeds, it is important to keep the core of that group together, but introducing new faces to freshen things up and avoid complacency is also vital.
It remains to be seen whether or not the issue is addressed in January, though it is not like a club of Real's stature to go out and find a quick-fix solution.
The figures show that Cristiano Ronaldo is as good as he has ever been since joining Real in 2009. The Portuguese superstar has scored 12 goals in his 13 league games this season, while he is averaging a goal a game in Europe this term.
However, the world's most expensive player is not completely happy at the Bernabeu. After refusing to celebrate either of the two goals he scored in September's 3-0 win over Granada, Ronaldo said (via the Telegraph): “I’m sad—when I don’t celebrate goals it’s because I’m not happy. It’s a professional thing. Real Madrid know why I’m not happy.”
Whether it is because he is not happy with the latest contract offer from Real or because he feels the club has not shown its appreciation of him enough in other ways, having an £80 million publicly announce his displeasure is an issue which needs to be addressed.
Ronaldo is such a force in the Real Madrid team that even some of his world-class teammates cannot help but always look to give him the ball. Such is his influence both on and off the pitch that it is difficult to feel that his "sadness"—no matter how little he has expressed it since that September outburst—would not have some kind of effect on him and some of the other players too.
Real's cause has not been helped by the fact that several of their most consistent players from last season's title-winning campaign have failed to replicate that form this term.
Karim Benzema scored 21 league goals last season and had seven to his name at the same point last term. This season, he has only scored twice in 11 La Liga appearances.
Sami Khedira—when fit—has not been his usual sturdy self, Mesut Ozil has hardly been at his creative best and even goalkeeper and club captain Iker Casillas has been below his best at times.
The Bernabeu has been a fortress for Real Madrid this season. The only league points they have dropped there so far were due to the 1-1 draw with Valencia on the opening day. But, then again, you would expect nothing less than fearsome home form from a team managed by Jose Mourinho.
It is on their travels where they have suffered this season, despite claiming a well-deserved 2-2 draw at Barcelona. All three of their league defeats—to Getafe, Sevilla and Real Betis—have all come on the road and have been lost by the odd goal (2-1, 1-0 and 1-0 respectively).
Added to that, the 2-1 loss at Borussia Dortmund a month ago has cost Real top spot in their Champions League group, leaving them susceptible to a difficult draw in the last 16.