Real Madrid are a team that worked extremely hard against the tide to win La Liga under difficult circumstances last season.
But their inherent problems aren't going anywhere, and the deficiencies of the squad have been laid bare in the last month.
Yes, Zinedine Zidane has had to contend with injury - he has been operating with auxiliary full-back Lucas Vazquez after Alvaro Odriozola, Dani Carvajal and Nacho all fell by the wayside - but in this condensed season, so is everyone else.
And in the last few games the ability of Zidane's team to get results over the line in the face of adversity has been eroded, and there's a doubt as to whether it can come back.
Real Madrid: The season so far
Things began as normal. A low key 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad - which, given the form of the Basques may prove to be a very useful one at the end of the season - was followed by wins over Real Betis, Valladolid and Levante.
None of them were particularly convincing, however, and it came back to bite them when Cadiz deservedly won in the capital. Things haven't returned to the Real Madrid equilibrium since.
Shakhtar defeated them three days later - again, deservedly. The Clasico was won but in controversial circumstances, then a draw was salvaged in Gladbach from two goals down.
Inter were unlucky not to take at least a draw then, the Valencia match. A crazy 4-1 loss at the Mestalla against one of the poorest sides in the league, losing all defensive discipline in the process of conceding three penalties.
Real Madrid moves in
Real Madrid moves out
Madrid's key performers have regularly dragged them through bad times and on occasion with spectacular success. But Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos cannot do it all and the supporting players have been notable in their inaction.
Eden Hazard, injured again. Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr, young, but integral squad players who need to start producing something like consistency soon. Marco Asensio has not be the same since his injury and Martin Odegaard's excellent displays on loan at Real Sociedad have not - yet - translated into performances in white.
What's more Zidane doesn't seem to know which formation he wants to use, reverting back to a 4-3-3 in times of need when he really would prefer a 4-4-2 diamond with a No. 10. But Odegaard's form and Isco simply not doing enough mean he doesn't really have one.
In every press conference, the question for Zidane is the same. Kylian Mbappe - is he coming or not? He's the target, and he's the reason no business was conducted this summer. But he's just one man. Is he enough to solve all of the endemic problems?
Real Madrid: Grade C
Madrid are losing games they wouldn't normally, and are failing to convince even in the games they win. There's not a great deal between them and Barcelona, really and that's not meant as a positive.
Both of these giants are at the end of the cycle and their squads will need reshaping, while expensive assets will either step up, or be moved on. As for what happens for the rest of this bizarre, condensed season, Atletico Madrid and others smell blood. Whether Madrid can hold them at bay, remains to be seen.