Carlo Ancelotti has said this is the "beginning of an era," not the end, at Real Madrid, backing the team to come out of a disappointing run starting with Thursday's Copa del Rey round of 16 tie at Villarreal.
Madrid suffered a resounding 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa final on Sunday, coming after a 2-1 league loss to Villarreal earlier this month which saw them drop three points behind Barca in the LaLiga title race.
Those performances led to accusations that this Real Madrid team -- the reigning Spanish and European champions, led by veterans like Luka Modric, 37, Toni Kroos, 33, and Karim Benzema, 35 -- is past its best.
"This is a young team," Ancelotti said in a news conference on Wednesday. "Everyone talks about Modric, Kroos and Benzema but we have to talk about the youngsters too: [Eduardo] Camavinga, Vinicius, Rodrygo, [Federico] Valverde, [Eder] Militao, [Aurelien] Tchouameni and those to come.
"I think this is the beginning of an era at this club... It's a moment of transition, from a fantastic era to another era. The day that Karim, Toni and Luka stop playing -- and let's hope it's years away -- there are others who will take charge of this team. It isn't the end, it's the beginning."
Ancelotti pointed to the impact of a mid-season World Cup, a demanding January fixture list and individual injuries as factors in the team's slump.
"It's difficult to be in our best condition [at this stage of the season]," he said. "What wasn't predictable was the injuries we've had to Tchouameni, to [David] Alaba and now Lucas Vazquez. But January is a difficult month, that was predictable. We have to get through this month."
After the Villarreal cup tie, Madrid travel away to Athletic Club in LaLiga before hosting in-form Real Sociedad a week later, with the Club World Cup in Morocco to come in February.
"Tomorrow [against Villarreal] is a difficult game," Ancelotti said. "Everyone is giving up on Real Madrid... But we'll never give up for sure, not tomorrow, not on Sunday or the following Sunday. We'll come out of this, and in not too long."