Real Madrid got down to work with a closed-door session on Thursday morning as the build-up to the Champions League Final intensified.
Zinedine Zidane and co. trained in private at Valdebebas on Thursday before flying to Kiev with the specific target of winning the Champions League for a third season in a row; something that in today’s football will be difficult to follow if Real do manage this on Saturday night.
While the media are seriously trying to wind things up by promoting Real as over-confident as they approach the game in Kiev, Zidane and the players are just quietly getting on with the preparations.
Contrary to the image portrayed in the last ten days or so, Madrid’s coach is careful not to give the impression that Real only need to turn up to win on Saturday night.
Over-confidence is not something that is associated with the current Madrid squad, and outside of Spain many of the quotes incorrectly attributed to the Real players and staff have been ‘lost in translation’ as the saying goes.
You only need to look at the second legs of Real Madrid’s quarter and semi-final ties in the Champions League to see why nobody in the squad will be taking anything for granted. Over-confidence certainly isn’t going to be an issue this weekend; and apart from anything else, Zinedine Zidane won’t allow it.
What he will be doing though is making sure that Real’s players are focussed on the final; and therein lies the difference.
As far as Zidane and the players are concerned, the self-belief that the third Champions League trophy in a row can be won shouldn’t be confused with arrogance. But where football today is concerned, there’s a lot of artistic licenses around when it comes to reporting!
So after a few open sessions earlier this week the doors to the media and everyone else are now firmly closed. Real’s preparations will continue in private; with the specific aim of being in the best possible condition for the Final; mentally, physically and tactically.
It’s often said that games are won or lost in your head; and that’s one of the reasons why Zidane, logically, isn’t going to encourage an over-confident approach. Over-confidence leads to players taking unnecessary risks in match situations and that’s definitely not something that he takes lightly.
There’s a world of difference between genuine self-belief and the arrogance that leads to players making inappropriate decisions during the game; so Real’s approach will focus on the positives rather than the negatives, but this will be appropriate to the magnitude of the occasion.
It’s a Champions League Final so the mental preparation will be geared towards that. Over-confidence doesn’t come into it. Liverpool are a good side and at no time has Zidane or anyone else said they aren’t.
Physically, Real Madrid’s players will be in good shape for the game in Kiev. Recent injuries to Nacho, Cristiano, Dani Carvajal and Luka Modrić are all in the past and everyone has been training at full pace.
In addition to having had enough games under their belts to satisfy Zidane and assistant David Bettoni that everyone is now working at full intensity, it’s a compliment to the medical and fitness people that their recovery processes have been managed with the Final in mind.
As opposed rushing people back for league games before they were ready, Zidane set the specific target of Saturday’s game for anyone carrying injuries – however minor – and that approach has been justified with a full squad available to select from.
This then leads into Zidane’s tactical approach which will be tailored towards the final; and although it would be very easy to speculate (as we will!) about who Real Madrid’s starting eleven will be and what formation they’ll line-up in, we’re going to have to wait.
Tactically, a coach’s work is never done, and there will always be some fine-tuning in this respect right up until the kick-off on Saturday night.
At times like this, Zidane likes to keep things ‘in-house’ as much as possible. But with all the media intensity focussed on Real Madrid at the moment, Zidane and the staff might have their hands full keeping everything under wraps until Saturday night.
However, it’s a small world in football and everybody tends to know someone who knows something that nobody else does and that’s where the rumors start.
News of one of the players having a minor injury or somebody dropping out of training with muscle soreness travels fast; so let’s hope it’s a quiet and fruitful period in the 48 hours leading up to the Final!