It's an oft-cited cliche, but a week is a very long time in football.
Prior to last weekend's Clasico at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid were favourites to win the league and still in the hunt for "La Decima," the much-vaunted 10th European Cup.
Their Champions League progress may be still on track, but their superiority on all fronts has been brought into question in the past week. The Guardian's Sid Lowe notes that Los Blancos were seven points ahead of Barcelona and three ahead of Atletico during the two periods in which they held the lead in the Clasico.
Following two straight defeats, they are now two behind Barca and three behind their city neighbours. The title favourites have become the outsiders, relying upon slip-ups from those above.
After the heartbreak of losing to the Blaugrana on home turf on Sunday, Carlo Ancelotti's side headed to Seville on Wednesday night to face a team boasting five consecutive league wins.
They took the lead when Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick took a heavy deflection, but they stayed in front only five minutes as the in-form Carlos Bacca scored the first of a brace.
The game ended on a sour note when Ronaldo openly criticised Gareth Bale for blasting an injury-time free-kick which could have levelled the game into the stands.
Presumably, the Welshman could only apologise for his dead-ball strike not taking a big deflection like the Portuguese star's did earlier in the match.
Real have managed to double their total league-loss tally for the season in the space of four days, and the finger of blame has been pointed in many directions.
Madrid-based Spanish sports newspaper Marca attempted to analyse the double defeat by polling their fans. Firstly, they asked who is to blame for the situation:
|Who is to blame for Real Madrid's "crisis"?|
Evidently, Ronaldo's attempts to shift blame for the Clasico defeat onto the referee were not embraced by the majority of fans. And only a fifth of those polled felt it was down to Ancelotti's management. The majority felt it was the fault of the players themselves, via individual lapses or generally poor outings.
Marca went a step further in their poll, asking which players had dropped the most in form during the two losses. Here are the top six answers:
|Which players have dropped in form in the last two games?|
The brunt of the blame is being laid on Xabi Alonso and goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
The former Liverpool midfielder gave away possession for Seville's first goal on Wednesday and struggled to make an impact on the game as a whole. WhoScored.com gave him a rating of 5.5 for the performance, the lowest of any Madrid player on the field.
Lopez, meanwhile, was as ineffective as he proved in Sunday's Clasico. According to the aforementioned Sid Lowe, one Spanish report described his performance against Seville as "transparent." That's not exactly a quality one would desire in a goalkeeper.
Blame was also placed on Gareth Bale, who made a few excellent runs during the Clasico but went missing for much of the game. On Wednesday, only one of his six shots was on target and none of his nine crosses were accurate, per WhoScored. One expects more from the world's most expensive player.
Madrid now have eight games left to put things right. At least they have the benefit of knowing Barca and Atleti cannot both claim maximum points from the final day of the season when they face each other.
On Saturday, meanwhile, they face the challenge of hosting a Rayo Vallecano side who are unbeaten in five and whose possession-based tactics will stretch Los Blancos' troubled midfield. ESPN FC's Nicholas Rigg notes that Rayo were the first team to out-possess Barcelona in 317 competitive matches when they met earlier in the season.
Carlos Ancelotti may not be the man whom fans primarily blame for the drop in form, but his selections will be heavily scrutinised as he aims to get his side back on track.
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