Time for tactics, and for rest

Luciano Spalletti once again asked his players to work their butts off at the first practice of the day, then have an easier practice in the evening on Friday.

The United Arab Emirates are only associated with sunny weather and excruciating heat, and yet Zenit’s practices have ended in pouring rain each of the last two days. That said the practices have all started in good weather, which makes it possible for the coaches to hold tactical training in the usual understanding of the word: with whiteboards, diagrams, and emotional explanations. On Thursday Luciano Spalletti placed an emphasis on defense, while on Friday morning he was more focused on the attack.

But, as everybody knows, tactics without practice is time wasted. And to practice you have to first warm up and be in a good mood. Zenit’s coaching staff achieves this goal without any trouble: traditional stretching and exercises by Alberto Bartali, an obstacle route set up by Marco Domenichini, and tennis-ball with Igor Smutenikov, Nikolay Vorobyov, and Daniele Baldini as referees.

The warm-up quickly transitioned to tactical-running exercises: half the team works on tactics, and half runs. There was one difference from the day before though: Fernando Meira, who caught a cold, was replaced on the field by Roland Gigolaev, who flew to Dubai on Thursday night.

Altogether Zenit’s morning practice lasted about 3 hours. For this reason lunchtime was delayed slightly. But hard work always leads to a reward, and when the players returned to the hotel they got good news: the Friday evening practice has been cancelled, and the players will get free time instead.