Real Madrid are "at the beginning of a new cycle", according to Carlo Ancelotti, who is confident Los Blancos' young players can step up to halt their difficult run of post-World Cup form.
Madrid were heavily criticized for their performance in Sunday's Supercopa de Espana final defeat against Barcelona, with young midfielders Gavi and Pedri impressing in a deserved 3-1 win for the Blaugrana.
Excluding penalty shoot-outs, the European champions have only won two of their five games since the World Cup, only overcoming fourth-tier Cacereno in the Copa del Rey and struggling Real Valladolid in LaLiga.
With some of Madrid's experienced players – including midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric – attracting criticism in recent weeks, Ancelotti says his side are undergoing a transition.
"It is a young team. Everyone talks about Modric, Kroos, or [Karim] Benzema, but there were already youngsters and there are more who have arrived this year," Ancelotti said in a press conference ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey tie against Villarreal.
"I think we are at the beginning of a cycle. It is a moment of transition from one fantastic era to another.
"There are some players who have made history at this club and others who are starting their careers. The day Luka, Karim and Toni stop playing, there are others who will take command."
Madrid failed to contain a young Barcelona team in the latest edition of El Clasico, but Ancelotti does not believe Los Blancos are trailing their rivals when it comes to player development.
"I think Madrid takes great care of the academy and we have a lot of youngsters who are progressing a lot," he said. "I'm sure some of them will be key players in the coming years.
"There are some periods in which you do not have those players, and others in which you can rely on them. But I think this generation is going to be very, very good."
Thursday's trip to the Estadio de la Ceramica sees Madrid reunited with a Villarreal team that beat them 2-1 in LaLiga less than two weeks ago, but Ancelotti is determined to use the last-16 tie to turn their form around.
"It's an opportunity to get out of this difficult moment," Ancelotti said. "The sooner we get out of this rut, the better. It's a difficult game but we consider it a great opportunity.
"It was clear it would be difficult to find our level after the World Cup, but also injuries have reduced us a lot. The injuries to [Aurelien] Tchouameni and [David] Alaba have upset us a lot.
"We have to hold on and get through this section of the season. Last year, during January we were not very good. But we got out of that difficult dynamic and we're going to do the same this season.
"We must not lose confidence. I have a lot of depth in this squad, with fantastic players. We have to trust them and we are sure that we are going to get better."