Such is the standard set by the clubs that make up European football royalty, that a few simultaneous bad weeks and run of poor results makes you start to question things.

By Avi Creditor
October 19, 2018

Such is the standard set by the clubs that make up European football royalty, that a few simultaneous bad weeks and run of poor results makes you start to question things.

Barcelona hasn't won in La Liga since Sept. 15 (0-1-3), while Real Madrid hasn't since Sept. 22 (0-2-1)–and hasn't scored in its last four games in all competitions. Bayern Munich, meanwhile, also hasn't won in its league since Sept. 22 and has gone winless in its last four in all competitions (0-2-2). 

Between them, they've accounted for 23 Champions League titles and are three of the most decorated clubs in European history. They've combined to win an astounding 86 domestic league titles, with Barcelona and Real Madrid having combined to win 15 of the 18 La Liga titles since the turn of the century, and Bayern Munich winning 12 Bundesliga crowns in that time. So suffice it so say, struggles aren't familiar for any of these teams, let alone three at the same time.

So what's plaguing the power trio? Let's take a closer look at each of them:

BARCELONA

Barcelona's "struggles" are curious, if not a bit overblown. Beat first-place Sevilla at home on Saturday, and it's back atop the table. In the Champions League, it's a perfect 2-0-0, scoring eight goals in two games. So a dose of perspective is required. Of the three powers discussed here, Barcelona is in the best shape.

That said, it has endured a run of some real head-scratching results. Drawing at Valencia, sure, that'll happen. The Mestalla is always tough to conquer, and Marcelinho's side loaded up in the summer in hopes of mounting a domestic challenge, even though it's only resulted in one win (plus six draws) in eight matches. But drawing at home to ... Girona? Losing at Leganes? That's not the Barcelona that nearly went unbeaten in the league last season. 

Defensively, Barcelona is a bit of a mess. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has bailed the club out on multiple occasions, and injuries have hampered the back line. Samuel Umtiti is out for the foreseeable future, and Gerard Pique appears more mistake-prone in the back than ever before. The decision to sell Yerry Mina after half a season–and a standout World Cup–looks more regretable by the day. The club's nine goals conceded in eight games are the most among teams in La Liga's top eight. A middle-of-the-pack unit just isn't going to win many trophies.

There's time to get it right, though, and Barcelona's president has already hinted at more center back signings come January. With a run of Sevilla on Saturday, Inter Milan midweek in the Champions League and then next Sunday's Clasico, the urgency on those signings could be heightened significantly.

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REAL MADRID

It's been a rough start to life at Real Madrid for new manager Julen Lopetegui, and the leash at the Bernabeu is traditionally short.

This happened last year in the league, as well, of course, and the club recovered to win a third straight Champions League and narrowly finish third in Spain, but there have been two massive departures since then: star forward Cristiano Ronaldo and manager Zinedine Zidane. Ronaldo's second-half form was otherworldly, while Zidane always seemed to hit the right buttons for the club when it mattered most. There's no more bail-out option in the attack, and Lopetegui hasn't displayed the same magic touch from the coaching box.

The season has featured some surprise results. Real Madrid lost to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League–albeit with a heavily rotated team, which didn't have the services of Gareth Bale, Isco, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos. Alaves is a nice surprise package in Spain thus far, sitting in sixth place through eight matches, but you wouldn't expect a side with Real Madrid's quality to struggle so heavily just to score a single goal.

The good news for Real is that, like Barcelona, it's one result from being back atop the standings and Marcelo and Bale are on the comeback trail. With a full-strength lineup, Lopetegui should steer a more steady ship, and facing a Levante side that has leaked 14 goals in eight matches should be the antidote to the scoring skid. But fall next Sunday at Camp Nou, and that short leash held by Florentino Perez will find a way to retract even more.

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BAYERN MUNICH

Germany's perennial power is coming unhinged, and it's starting at the top. The club's top brass held a bizarre press conference Friday in which it blasted the media for criticizing and questioning players.

"I don't know if there are special laws for the media, but we will not accept this kind of reporting any longer," Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "Today is an important day as we inform you that we will no longer tolerate this derogatory and derisive reporting. We will protect our coach, players and club. It is outrageous, disrespectful and polemical."

Uli Hoeness, the club's president again after serving jail time for tax evasion and who is far from the center of moral high ground, then went on a "false facts" rant regarding player criticism, taking a page straight out of the Trump playbook.

Sorry, Mr. Rummenigge and Mr. Hoeness. That's not how this works. 

Bayern has been poor, and its players and manager are receiving fair questioning and criticism, plain and simple. Bayern isn't the first favored team to go through a rough patch and be taken to task for it, nor will it be the last.

The club is flailing in sixth place in the Bundesliga, though only four points off the pace set by Borussia Dortmund. Like at Real, Bayern is also suffering through the growing pains of a new manager. Niko Kovac was a surprise hire in some circles, and he hasn't done much to quiet the critics who wondered if he was cut out for the job, much to Rummenigge's chagrin.

If Pique is showing signs of a regression, then Jerome Boateng is over the top of the roller coaster peak, in the midst of a drastic fall. He's been terrible after the club actively tried to sell him this summer. The other aging players are showing signs of decay, Robert Lewandowski "only" has three goals in six games and Kingsley Coman's injury was a big setback to a young player on the rise who was poised for a breakout year.

If Bayern is to find its form, it will have to do so away from home. Its next four games across three competitions all come away from Allianz Arena, though all are very winnable. Odds are that over the course of a long season, a still-star-studded Bayern will find its way–if not in the front-office suite, then at least on the field.

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