Real Madrid returned to training on Monday after recovering some of the good feeling they had lost in recent weeks with a victory over Valencia at the Mestalla. Two weeks out from the PSG game, which will decide their season, Zinedine Zidane wants to ensure his team arrive into the game in peak physical and mental condition.
The 'PSG plan' has one basic component: improve fitness and with that in mind, they will have a 'mini preseason' that Zidane and fitness coach Antonio Pintus have put together as they prioritise the need for a boost in the new year once again. The French manager is taking advantage of the fact that Real Madrid do not have a game midweek in the Copa having been knocked out by Leganés last week. He intends to increase the workload to ensure Real Madrid are coming into that game against the Ligue 1 side with full tanks.
At the start of the month, Zidane rued the chance to top up his side's fitness given the number of games they had in January and February in the build-up to the Champions League showdown. "We can't do a mini preseason like last year," he said. In 2017, the Madridistas started the year with indifferent form, with three wins, two draws and two losses, and just like this year, with an elimination in the Copa to Celta Vigo. Los Blancos reached their best level as they approached the business end of the year though thanks to the extra time the Copa exit granted them and they won a Champions League and league double.
Real Madrid's 'PSG Plan' designed by Zidane and Pintus
Over the course of the next week and a half, the objective is for Pintus and his team, Bernardo Requena (one of the coordinators at Real Madrid) and Hamidou Msaidie (physiotherapist and osteopath), is to increase power and burst over the first couple of yards. For this, they will implement continuous running, sprints and gym exercises. Zidane insists that Real Madrid's poor form does not have anything to do with their physical shape but knows that the calender and spate of games does require them to strengthen in this area or else fall off as we have seen with their poor record in the second half of games.
Zidane called upon the bbC for the first time in 280 days against Valencia and he will work to ensure they are on the same page and in prime condition too with suspensions and injuries preventing them from lining up beside each other for a prolonged stretch.
This period will also be key for the return of Sergio Ramos, who had an injury relapse before the Valencia game and missed out having returned against Leganés. Isco has a hip problem too and Varane left the Mestalla on Saturday with a pain in his knee and is also a worry but will be given time to recover and get stronger. The French defender's recovery is vital for Zidane, who is without Dani Carvajal, who is suspended for the clash with Nacho expected to slot in at right-back.
Zidane wants to improve Real Madrid's confidence
Finally, in the coming weeks, the manager and his team will work on the psychological aspect of the game. After the win against Valencia, some suggested Real Madrid had turned a corner but Zidane said, "We are physically fine, sometimes football is in your head....which is even more difficult." And with that point, Zidane made it clear that he thinks the team needs to recover in that regard. He is also aware that many of his superstar players will get up for the game naturally but is keen to reinstall their confidence ahead of the clash.
The PSG game is on the horizon with Mbappé, Neymar and co. coming to town and plenty of those at Real Madrid are aware that the result will decide the future for many of them.