If Tottenham saw a home match against Bournemouth as an opportunity for a show of strength before travelling to Real Madrid in the Champions League this week, a sluggish 1-0 win was very much an opportunity missed.
Thankfully for Spurs, Real were not much better at the weekend. Last season’s all-conquering, back-to-back European champions needed a late goal from Cristiano Ronaldo to secure a late 2-1 win over recently-promoted Getafe.
It was a typically stuttering performance from the Spaniards, who Spurs could be forgiven for thinking have arrived in their fixture list at the perfect moment.
Zinedine Zidane’s team already trail La Liga table-toppers Barcelona by five points just eight matches into the season.
A 73-game run of finding the back of the net came to an abrupt halt when they lost to Real Betis at home last month, a result that followed draws in Real’s opening two home fixtures.
Results have improved since, yet Saturday’s tight win at Getafe was typically laboured.
Real’s home form —- it has been their worst start at the Bernabeu for 20 years — is particularly encouraging for Tottenham, who likewise have been more impressive on the road so far this season.
“When we are at home, if we don’t score early we tend to get anxious,” confessed midfielder Isco following the Betis loss. Zidane, meanwhile, has said that the team “have to change the dynamic” when playing at the iconic 81,044-capacity stadium.
Whistles and boos can be quick to rain down on the players when things are not going to plan and if Spurs can frustrate their illustrious opponents in the early exchanges tonight then recent results may not be fair from Real fans’ thoughts.
It has not just been home discomforts that have hurt Real this season. Cristiano Ronaldo was missing for the first three games of the campaign through suspension, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo have sat out matches for the same reason, Karim Benzema has been absent for four fixtures through a hamstring injury and now former Tottenham star Gareth Bale has been ruled out for tonight's encounter.
All added up, the effect has been on Real’s scoring prowess. At this stage last season they had scored 22 league goals compared to just 15 so far this year.
Ronaldo’s winner on Saturday was his first La Liga strike of the season, while no other Real player is yet to notch more than two. The decision to let Alvaro Morata join Chelsea, where he has already scored seven goals, has loomed large over their struggles.
And unlike Tottenham, who appear well-attuned to Mauricio Pochettino’s now-preferred 3-4-2-1 formation, Zidane has chopped and changed in search of the right combination of personnel and tactics to fix the issue.
Tottenham’s task is still as daunting as they come. Real have not lost a group stage match in the Champions League for a record 29 games, a run stretching back five years, and have not been beaten at home since 2009.
And while they may have struggled at home in recent league matches, 32 wins out of their last 37 European games at the Bernabeu cannot be easily dismissed.
Yet if Spurs fans are looking for a chink in the armour, this is as dented as Real Madrid are ever likely to be.