Real Madrid and José Mourinho have eight days. Eight days to define a season and, quite possibly, a legacy; eight days around which to define an exit strategy too. When it comes to knockout tournaments, promise and threat are always two sides to the same coin but for Madrid, and for their manager, that sensation is deepened. On Tuesday night they face Barcelona away in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at Camp Nou, having drawn 1-1 in the first; on Saturday they play Barcelona again in La Liga at home and next Tuesday they travel to Manchester United in the Champions League, again having drawn 1-1 at home in the first leg.
Barcelona, Barcelona, United. It is some journey, destination unknown. 6 March is Real Madrid's birthday. By then, their season could have ended. Trailing Barcelona by 16 points in a league championship that Mourinho has already declared "impossible", they must get positive results at Camp Nou and Old Trafford in order to avoid elimination in the two remaining competitions, the "only" things they have left.
Or, to put it another way, they could still be on course for a Copa del Rey final, having knocked out their bitterest rivals on route, and continuing their path towards a historic 10th European Cup – and the European Cup eclipses all else, always. Madrid's task may not prove as huge as is presupposed either: two draws may be sufficient. Two 2-2s and they will go through.
That is far from impossible: Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in his past five visits to Camp Nou and three of Madrid's last four results there would put them through: 2-2, 3-2, 1-2, 2-2.