Just a few days separate Ronald Koeman and the biggest managerial game of his career.
He’s been in the Copa del Rey final before of course, winning the trophy with Valencia back in 2008, but this Saturday’s showpiece against Athletic Bilbao takes on an almighty significance for the Dutchman.
There has been much to admire about his tenure so far, not least the bravery he’s shown in playing the youngsters when those who have gone before have been far too conservative in this regard.
He’s also steered the club far enough away from the disaster of last season to at least make the 2020/21 campaign an acceptable one, if nothing more as yet.
And there’s the rub.
For all of the positivity that has surrounded the first-team at certain points this season, when push has come to shove, Koeman has failed to deliver.
On the biggest stages, his side has looked meek, mild and, at times, pathetic.
There can’t be any more excuses made now of course.
His haranguing of the match officials after the game last weekend - as seen in the main image of this article - was embarrassing to say the least.
Yes, there were a couple of decisions certainly worthy of debate, but Los Blancos were there for the taking.
The whispers behind the scenes have already begun too, and although Koeman still retains the confidence of Joan Laporta at this stage, it’s believed that the wider board aren’t too enamoured with him, precisely because of his record when it matters.
Lionel Messi may even be keeping one eye on the situation and using it as leverage in the summer if there’s a chance that he’ll stay at the club beyond the end of this season.
Just 90 minutes separate Barcelona from another piece of silverware, and surely this cup win, if it arrives, would be cherished as much as any other in recent times when one considers the back story of the past few months.
How many times we’ve appeared to be heading out of the competition, only to strike late on and progress to the next round. All of that cannot be in vain.
Koeman has to inspire. To lead from the front and take appropriate risks as and when required. To demand the absolute best of himself, his staff and his players.
Anything less is unacceptable.