One step back, two steps forward

Zenit`s morning practice on its second day in Marbella lasted an hour longer than usual, and was the hardest yet in 2011 in terms of the intensity and the number of drills.

At seven in the morning on the balcony of the Elba hotel, where Zenit is staying, there is dew all over. The nearby courtyard with palm trees growing is totally empty. The Spanish generally sleep at this hour of the day. But Luciano Spalletti`s team is a Russian club, and the players have been going to breakfast for three weeks straight at 7:00 a.m. Afterwards the players get in the team bus and after a half-hour drive they arrive in the Marbella Football Center.

Zenit started the day on Friday with a completely unusual fifty-minute (!) warm-up and stretching exercise, along with a tactical analysis of the previous day`s match with Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Almost an hour of warm-ups and stretching under the hot sun is equal to the entire practice held by the Romanian club Timişoara working nearby, and almost twice as long as the practice held by Lokomotiv!

But for Spalletti such a warm-up was just the beginning of a long morning which the Spanish journalists in the sports complex immediately named "Russian hell". The Zenit footballers had to jump on a step platform twice (one step backwards and two steps forwards), go over a series of barriers at a sprint, and then get over another set of barriers at a jogging pace. Even though the drill sounds easy, the truth is it had to be repeated over and over again without stopping for more than thirty minutes straight. The drill was finished with two sprints – up a hill and then over the whole length of the field.
– So you liked that one, didn`t you, – said Vyacheslav Malafeev to the journalists present. His light green goalkeeper sweater had turned dark with sweat. – The drill was a complete success!

Zenit`s coaching staff loaded the players by 200%.
– An excellent practice, just magnificent, – said Sergey Semak ironically. – We worked like slaves!

Zenit will have another practice on Friday evening, and it looks like the players will have to work at their maximum output yet again.