Approaching Real Madrid in February are three vitally important games that will define the success of this season. Facing Manchester United in the Champions League last-16 and Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final could ultimately decide Jose Mourinho's future at the club after a season that has seen them slip behind Barca and cross city neighbours Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table.
Stars a plenty at Mourinho's disposal, they have simply not performed well and big name players have failed to be as consistent as they once were; In that list include former Spurs midfielder Luka Modric who signed for the club in a £37m deal last summer.
The list of off-field trouble and allegations at the Santiago Bernabeu is endless this season. Ronaldo unhappy, Casillas dropped, Mourinho's ultimatum etc, but the latest reports Mourinho turned down the chance to sign Santi Cazorla and Isco and instead signed Modric last summer could finally be the nail on the head.
Malaga, struggling for finances during last summer sent a formal fax to Madrid president Florentino Perez offering the pair but after deliberating for all of a couple of hours, Mourinho informed him of the decision. No
Why? Well, look at the quality of those two players and the impact they have had this season at Arsenal and Malaga respectively and you won't ask why. Better than Luka Modric, arguable, but considering both of those Spanish players were offered for a combined fee, less than that of Modric, you would have to say so.
Whilst people can list endless amounts of mistakes the Portuguese coach has made this season, maybe this one is perhaps the biggest.
Santi Cazorla, arguably the Premier League's top midfielder this season and that in just his first season of English football, whilst Isco has became one of football's hottest young talents and made his Spanish national side debut earlier this week against Uruguay in Qatar.
Whilst Mourinho and Madrid fans can only look back and think 'if only' now, they will be hoping that a similar mistake will not happen again. Cazorla and Isco could have provided the club a safe and consistent midfield for years to come but that possibility is now firmly behind them.
Instead, Mourinho will have to do what he can with what he has got for those all-important games, something that has let him down this season.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald