Real Madrid has lost their aura of invincibility – just when they are starting to win titles. Carlo Ancelotti and his team are reminiscing.

For Barça, there is more at stake on Sunday. The Liga-Clasico, even if the Catalans are back in front in the table, went to Real, who can also look back on a past season with a championship and Champions League victory. Barcelona’s financial tightrope act and recent sporting lows mean they are far more in debt if the Supercopa final is the first title of this Spanish season.

Xavi’s team, slight favourites with the bookmakers, also has more going for it at the moment. In the difficult away match at Atletico Madrid, the Catalans held the zero at the back, while they struck up front in the only really strong phase – and that even without the suspended goal ace Robert Lewandowski.

Where their arch-rivals show the qualities and win games that characterise a championship contender, Real Madrid is out of form – as they were in the phase before the World Cup break. All the coolness and coolness of the previous season, more to be found in FC Barcelona this year, have been evaporating for weeks. As have the performances of actual key players.

Harmless up front, vulnerable at the back

Vinicius Junior is starting to get bogged down again regularly, Fede Valverde’s violent shots are just whizzing past the goal, which even Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema can hardly score from play. In addition, the World Cup strain is particularly noticeable in the case of experienced players such as Luka Modric, and in the rarely identical four-man defence, which is often without a trained right-back in the absence of the repeatedly injured Dani Carvajal, the royals allow themselves fatal mistakes. In the 1:2 at Villarreal even only 20 seconds after the restart.

“At this level, there are no easy games,” warned coach Carlo Ancelotti after the Supercopa semi-final against Valencia FC, which was only won on penalties. But the truth is that sloppy Madrilenians often make things difficult for themselves. “It’s obvious that the team is not performing at its normal level,” admits the Italian, who doesn’t believe “it’s a problem of a physical nature”.

Slump under Ancelotti? Real has experienced it before

So it’s a headache? In 2021/22, that was precisely the great strength of the royals, who made the supposedly impossible possible again and again, both in the league and especially in the spectacular Champions League season. Does that eventually wear out? Does Ancelotti’s style of address not work over a longer period? Problems that naturally come at an inopportune time before the Supercopa final, the Club World Cup (from 1 February) and the Champions League round of 16 against Liverpool (21 February and 15 March).

Inevitably, memories of the 2014/15 season, the second season of Ancelotti’s first tenure in Madrid, will come back to Real. After winning the last cup and, of course, the long-awaited tenth CL title (“La Decima”) in the previous year, the royals ran out of steam in the second half of the season and ran themselves out of titles. As a result, Ancelotti was sacked.