The whole of Madrid's season is riding on a crucial month. Given that they have fallen off the cliff in the league (16 points behind Barcelona) all Mourinho's cards are being saved for the Champions League against Manchester United, and against Barcelona in the Cup in the Camp Nou.
The Portuguese coach is planning the team's schedule to arrive in peak condition for the first of these challenges: Manchester United in the Bernabéu on 13 February. With this in mind he is seriously considering resting three or four first team starters. Four of his players have him especially worried: Pepe, Xabi Alonso, Marcelo and Varane. Their varying ailments mean Mou has a question mark over each of them for the Manchester game. And that is one game the entire squad is looking forward to: "For the Champions it isn't necessary to motivate them", said Mourinho to the club's executives.
The real crunch period is the end of February and the start of March. On 27 February Madrid play the return leg of the Cup tie, three days later, another Clásico, this time in the league. Then on 5 March they fly to Manchester to play the second leg of the Champions League tie, to try and continue dreaming of the 'Décima', the season's main goal.
Madrid's fans are optimistic about the Champions against Manchester, because the statistics are on Mou's side. Since he arrived Madrid have made it to the semi-finals twice, consecutively, before falling to Barcelona (2010-2011) and Bayern last year. Mou broke the bad run of six years of being beaten in the quarters...