Pre-season frailties: –
If anyone is following Real Madrid from pre-season to the cup games, you will find a complete contrast. Back in early July, Madrid players came back with confidence and swagger. They just defended the Champions League crown for the first time in history. Even though Morata left and Ronaldo was out for early parts, the squad was good enough.
But, reviewing their pre-season results, things look completely different. They played the likes of Barcelona, United, City and looked pretty off pace. Despite training less time, their El Clasico opponents appeared fresh and more eager.
Much of the pre-season vexations were put on Real Madrid’s fitness coach, Antonio Pintus. His methods as criticised by some players were too old-fashion school type early on last year. But, once his methods worked wonders with the squad, he got the due praise from some of the best squad players like Sergio Ramos. Pintus designed a full one-year plan which kept likes of Modric, Ronaldo, Kroos fit in most of the big games.
The Italian began this season with a 22-day training and games program in the heat of United States. It sure is a heavy workload for players just coming back from their respective vacations. Eventually, its effects were quite apparent during the pre-season games. One thing to note is that this group of players have been together for a while now. So, training and gelling together won’t be a problem at any time. The workload made some telling effects.
Peaking at the right time: –
Four days before the UEFA Super Cup against Manchester United, Zidane said: “the pre season is over, we need to be ready in four days.” Some very telling words from a man who is self-possessed to succeed every time he steps on to the field. Those words did some magic as Madrid won two cups in a week beating the same opponents (Barcelona and Manchester United) they lost to during the pre-season. It is some redemption this with some extra value.
We discussed about Real Madrid being slow in the early stages of last season too. But, they picked themselves up in big games and seemed unstoppable come the final game in May. We can match that situation in a lower-scale here. They have picked themselves up again and are performing when the need is most.
Credit should go to Zidane in every possible way for this turnaround. The Frenchman is master of a man-manager. He rested Casemiro, Bale and Isco for the second leg game yesterday against Barcelona which kept the likes of Vasquez, Asensio, Kovacic happy resulting in high-class performances from them.
Keeping the player of Ronaldo’s ego satisfied by managing his game time will be considered as one of his managerial master-class. This means other players will have to abide by what the manager is deciding and give their 100% every time.
Real Madrid’s squad is one of the best if compared to any in the world right now. In Zidane, they have the best man manager which becomes a deadly combination. Peaking at the right time and delivering good performances when it matters is becoming their trade now. Defending the La Liga won’t be as tough if they maintain the levels expected of them. A hattrick of Champions League crowns can’t be ruled out either.