Last weekend’s win at Balaidos gave Real Madrid a false sense of security.
Against a stubborn Real Valladolid at Santiago Bernabeu, Zinedine Zidane’s side stumbled to a 1-1 draw on Saturday, exposing the problems the coach has with this stale squad.
With James Rodriguez starting his first game for the club since May 2017 and Gareth Bale playing again from the off, only Thibaut Courtois set the XI apart from a potential line-up from that era, or even earlier.
The difference is, that Madrid side also had Cristiano Ronaldo, a focal point, a star, a true killer, who has not yet been replaced.
In theory the man to do that is Eden Hazard, the marquee summer signing for €100 million from Chelsea, but the Belgian has yet to play after suffering a thigh injury on the eve of the season.
Perhaps it was excitement for the new campaign or the anxious, disorganised hosts, but a 3-1 win at Celta Vigo on the opening weekend left Madrid calm, following a stormy pre-season.
It was an unusually quiet week in the capital because of that, with only the swirling rumours about Neymar to keep heart rates above a resting pulse.
But those who love drama need not worry now. Brows will be furrowed after a disappointing draw against Valladolid. Zidane started already, watching on in dismay as Sergi Guardiola’s late strike cancelled out Karim Benzema’s opener.
Madrid dominated the game and took plenty of pops at Jordi Masip’s goal, but did not create many clear chances. In fact, Benzema’s goal, sublimely taken, came out of nothing.
The Frenchman received the ball on the edge of the area and brilliantly curled a low strike into the bottom corner.
It was a half-chance at best, but the forward has continued his stunning form from last season, when he was the only Madrid player who pulled his weight.
Madrid’s defence, a perennial problem for Los Blancos, let them down though, with Guardiola squeezing in and prodding through Courtois’s legs.
The former Chelsea goalkeeper does seem to let in too many goals fired low and close to his body, but the bigger problem was Madrid’s lack of spark.
James played tidily but did not deliver anything special - and this is while he is fit and trying to impress - the Colombian is not always as fresh and spritely.
Bale followed up his strong opening day performance with another acceptable rendition, putting in a fine cross which Luka Jovic headed against the crossbar with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.
It was the first time Bale had played at the Bernabeu since April 21, when he was jeered and whistled - this time the crowd was more receptive and applauded him for his efforts.
However Madrid fans turn quickly and a few more displays like this and the white handkerchiefs will be back out.
Zidane needs Hazard to return from injury as quickly as possible - there have been some reports that he may be fit for next weekend - to give the team fresh impetus and drive.
The winger has a silky touch and fantastic imagination on the ball and his presence could shake a Madrid side up which fell into a stupor in the second half against Valladolid, with the exception of Benzema.