Few can deny that Real Madrid are a better team when Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema are all fit and firing. Unfortunately for coach Zinedine Zidane, however, that seems to be something of a rare occurrence these days.
Bale returned from injury in some style on Tuesday night as he emerged from the bench to help Los Blancos to a 2-2 draw at home to Fuenlabrada, and with it, passage to the next round of the Copa del Rey.
"I'm so happy for Gareth, Keylor [Navas] and Mateo [Kovacic] because they have been out for a while," the Frenchman said afterwards. "They are important players and seeing that they are ready for these next games makes me happy."
But Bale will not be ready for the game against Athletic Club at San Mames on Saturday. No sooner had he come back, he was ruled out again, with Madrid claiming he will be rested in the Basque Country "as a precaution". For what is usually a tough fixture, though, it would have been better had he been available.
"I want to see Cristiano, Bale and Benzema playing together again," Zidane had said in the press conference prior to the cup clash. Once again, however, he will have to wait.
Incredibly, the BBC trio have still not started a match for Madrid all together in 2017-18 and that is nothing new either. After starting 24 out of 60 games in 2013-14 and then 35 of a possible 59 the following season, the three forwards have featured from the outset just 34 times in two-and-a-half campaigns since.
Zidane said at his very first press conference that his plan as Real coach was to play with Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo in attack. "I won't tell you the team I will pick," he said. "But the three up front will play for sure."
More often than not, though, that has been impossible and Zidane has, therefore, had to look at other options, with Isco included the most when Bale is out and Marco Asensio also used regularly in attack.
Despite only featuring 10 times for Madrid this season, Bale has more assists than any other player at the club in the current campaign (five), while he has also scored three goals.
Benzema, who missed a chunk of the season through injury as well, has struggled for goals. He now has five in his 15 appearances, but failed to net in La Liga until mid-October and opened his account in the Champions League earlier in November.
His first strike of the season had come in the Spanish Supercopa in August and it was in that series against Barcelona that Ronaldo was shown a red card and handed a subsequent five-match ban for pushing the referee.
The Portuguese also found life difficult upon his return and has only two goals to his name in La Liga, one a rebound after he saw a penalty saved at home to Malaga last weekend.
All three players have been booed at the Santiago Bernabeu this season and just when it appeared the trio were ready to get back into the groove together, Bale is missing again. That must be incredibly frustrating for Zidane and the French coach will hope he can finally field his favourite forwards together in a line-up soon.