For all of Zinedine Zidane's tremendous success at Real Madrid so far, the champions of Europe have endured a frustrating start to the 2017-18 La Liga season.
Despite dominating possession against Levante on Saturday, Madrid could only manage a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, with Marcelo receiving a late red card for violent conduct.
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Both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have looked off the pace in recent weeks, but another big factor in Real's struggles has been the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The reigning World Player of the Year is still serving a suspension for pushing the referee at the Nou Camp, and now two of his teammates have said what so many of us believe to be true.
Lacklustre Real without Ronaldo
Marcos Llorente returned to Madrid after a loan spell at Alaves, while Theo Hernandez made a €30 million switch from rivals and neighbours Atletico Madrid.
Both summer arrivals were in Zidane's starting XI against Levante, and the young duo have admitted that they desperately need Cristiano back as they continue to struggle for goals.
After the draw, 19-year-old Hernandez told reporters, via Goal: "We tried hard throughout and our intensity was there as always, but we just couldn't make the most of our chances."
"Maybe we did lack a little spark, but we gave everything. We do need Cristiano to score goals, but we don't necessarily need a number nine. The squad will continue as it is."
Meanwhile, Llorente said: "This wasn't the kind of game we were expecting but what would be most worrying for us would be if we didn't create many chances.
"These things happen and we must keep working. It is clear that in this team, he (Cristiano) is very important and has an ability to score incredible goals."
The 22-year-old midfielder continued: "It would have been good to have him, but those who did play tried their best throughout."
Time for others to support Cristiano
Cristiano bagged a hat-trick for Portugal during the international break, but he will remain unavailable for selection for Los Blancos when they travel to Real Sociedad this weekend.
One of Ronaldo's biggest criticisms is that he isn't involved much during matches, but no one can deny that he is always there when it counts - putting the ball in the back of the net.
Given that he turns 33 in February, it's becoming clear that those around him will have to step up for Madrid to have any chance of maintaining their incredible level of recent success.
Do YOU think Real rely on Cristiano too heavily when it comes to goalscoring? Be sure to leave YOUR opinion in the comments box below!
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