Madrid, Apri 14 : Things can change a lot over a football season as Real Madrid fans will probably tell you as their team prepares to travel to the south of the capital to face Leganes on Monday night.
The first time the two sides met this season Real Madrid ran out 4-1 winners with two goals from Karim Benzema and one from Gareth Bale. The result and the performance left press and fans rubbing their hands in expectation as the team, which was then coached by Julen Lopetegui, continued an excellent start to the season which saw them win their first three games and score 10 goals in the process.
At the start of September it seemed that the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus was no loss at all as Benzema and Bale were stepping up with the help of others to produce a more rounded team.
Two months later all of that early season optimism was over with Lopetegui sacked in the wake of a 5-1 thrashing to Barcelona and replaced by Santiago Solari. Solari is history as well now, with Zinedine Zidane returning to the club with the aim of planning for next season, while ending the current campaign as positively as possible.
Zidane has led his team to four wins and a defeat in five games in charge, but you could never say his side has looked convincing, needing a last minute goal to beat Huesca 3-2 and scraping past Eibar (who outplayed them until central defender Ivan Ramis was injured) last week.
Now Madrid visit Leganes on a Monday night, with the scheduling of the game highlighting just how their season has turned out, given that only teams with no interest in Europe get the highly unpopular Monday night slot in Spain.
Zidane will continue with his policy of giving minutes to everyone in his squad and it will again be interesting to see if Keylor Navas or Thibaut Courtois (or even his son Luca) plays in goal.
Sergio Ramos is injured, which means Rafael Varane and Nacho will play in central defense with Dani Carvajal or Alvaro Odriozola at right back, with Marcelo, who is clearly a favorite of Zidane despite a poor season, on the left.
One player who has benefitted from Zidane's return is Marco Asensio, who has taken advantage of the injury to Vinicius Jr to return to the first team, while Benzema's 17 league goals have made the often criticized forward a fixture in the team.
Back in September things looked very different for Leganes, who took just one point from their first five games of the campaign. However, despite a host of changes in the first team squad, coach Mauricio Pellegrino has built a tight and competitive team that currently sits 12th in the table with 40 points assuring a fourth season of top-flight football in the Butarque Stadium.