Zenit players were scurrying around the beach already at 7 in the morning: some were going to the massage room, others were taking a morning jog, while others, remembering the Orthodox holiday of the Epiphany, jumped into the Persian Gulf to start the morning.
Wednesday`s morning practice was almost traditional for this year`s pre-season: first warm-ups, which included the new element of push-ups, followed by tennis ball, and then breaking into two groups which each took a half of the field to do field and tactical drills, respectively. The groups of footballers changed every fifteen minutes. Each player had to score five or six goals into the corner, then run. The players then went to the second half of the field to do tactical drills. It sounds easy, but in reality the team administrators got a whole pile of t-shirts soaked with sweat after the practice.
Zenit also got new football neighbors: besides the champions of Saudi Arabia, who are living in the hotel wing furthest from the beach to the left of the "Zenit” territory, the Ukrainian champion Shakhtar has also moved into the hotel. Shakhtar, along with Zenit, is considered to be a favorite at the Match World Cup tournament which is starting today. Shakhtar is practicing close by to Zenit. When Luciano Spalletti`s side finished its morning practice the Shakhtar side was just starting to work on ball control drills.
An early-morning practice usually leads directly to lunchtime. The Zenit players have learned the fastest routes to the kitchen now, and came to the hotel restaurant that serves as the team canteen even earlier than scheduled – the players needed to replenish their strength immediately after such a difficult practice.
Four hours after lunch under a spitting rain the team bus once again left for the Strelkovy Practice Facility for another tactical-running practice! The practice ended with a high-paced scrimmage which ended in a tie for the first time in the pre-season.
– Honestly, after days like this I want to jump into bed and sleep for a few days, – explained Nicolas Lombaerts after practice. – But you have to get up the next day, you can`t be late. So tomorrow I`m going to wake up at 6 a.m. again, open my eyes, and say to myself: “Hey, time to get up” – and get over the pain in my muscles and go practice again.