Inter Milan will arrive in Abu Dhabi in a state of domestic turmoil.
They risk watching the gap between themselves and the Serie A leaders stretch well into double figures while they contest the Club World Cup (CWC) and will resume the defence of their domestic title knowing that the standards set over the last five, triumphant, Italian seasons have not been met under the management of Rafa Benitez.
Their defeat against Lazio, on the weekend before they journeyed to the Middle East, was their fourth loss in 15 league matches so far. Last season they lost only four times throughout the campaign, and still finished top by a margin of only two points.
So that is one branch of the historic 2009/10 treble that looks likely to be pruned in 2011. In the Champions League, which Inter won in May, the club live on, with a place in the knockout phase guaranteed well before the final group fixtures took place.
But Inter have given off a sense of unease in their most challenging matches in Europe, those against Tottenham Hotspur. At home they beat Spurs 4-3, but the circumstances were alarming.
A four-goal early lead had been whittled down by the English club, who evidently carried some of that momentum back to London. There, Tottenham defeated the European champions 3-1.
Seven goals conceded in two games? That is not the Inter that Jose Mourinho, Benitez's predecessor, strove to build for international club competitions during his two years in charge.
Mourinho's base was a solid defence. He inherited Walter Samuel, the rugged Argentine, when he took over Inter's then-league champions in 2008, but despite an apparently ample roll-call of international stoppers, Mourinho sought even more authority at the back.
He brought in Lucio, the Brazilian who would become a key figures in transforming Inter from underachievers in Europe to the continent's champions.
Critically, it was Inter's defensive solidity and swiftness on the counter-attack that won them the Champions League.
These are trademark Mourinho priorities and it is Lucio, with his uncompromising work in his own penalty area, and his eagerness to initiate safaris up the field once in possession who has come to epitomise that. Inter's last-16 victories over Chelsea marked a significant step in the club's self-esteem.
Even when Inter were beginning to lord it over their compatriot clubs in Serie A, from 2007 onwards, English opponents had regularly brought them down to Earth in Europe. Benitez's Liverpool knocked them out of the Champions League in 2008; Manchester United had done so in 2009.
The defeat of Barcelona the semi-final also marked a watershed. With a 3-1 lead from a first leg they played spoilsport football in the second, but it worked. Samuel and Lucio, and the excellent Julio Cesar in goal, proved a sufficient barrier against the most creative club side, Barca, in the game.
Victory in the Madrid final, 2-0 against Bayern Munich, would seem more straightforward.
Certainly, the Inter who represent Europe at the CWC come with a very distinct reputation from that of last year's ambassadors, Barca.
But to style them merely as tough, calculating conservatives, happy to restrict their adventurous football to playing on the break would be simplistic. It would underestimate the talent of Wesley Sneijder and of Samuel Eto'o, consistently the finest centre-forward in the world over the past decade.
Benitez followed Mourinho with a manifesto to add flair to Inter's game-plan. It has been glimpsed from time to time. But the Spaniard, six months into his reign, is under pressure. Many of his best players are fatigued after the exertions of the treble and, in many cases, an extended World Cup.
The Club World Cup might still be his saviour, the launch-pad for these serial title-holders to show their calibre. Or it could turn into Benitez's swansong.