"Man's the creature of habit," wrote Charles Dickens. And when it comes to athletes, these habits become superstitions all about bringing good luck. Throughout this past week, the footballers of Real Madrid have set about repeating a whole host of Champions League rituals ahead of their final clash with Liverpool:
Zidane holds now traditional Real Madrid team barbecue
Last Friday, Real held their now traditional team barbecue at their Valdebebas training ground. Los Merengues' head coach, Zinedine Zidane, had also organised the lunch - attended by the players and their families - before last year's final win over Juventus in Cardiff, in a bid to let the squad unwind together amid the media frenzy in the build-up to the clash, and to strengthen the already strong bonds of friendship within the group. He also put on a similar event at the start of the season.
Before Real's 2016 Champions League final win over Atlético, captain Sergio Ramos took Keylor Navas, Lucas Vázquez and Luka Modric, and their families, to spend a few days getting away from it all at his house in Seville. This year, Navas invited his team-mates to this week's premiere of Hombre de fe: Keylor Navas, a film based on the life of the Costa Rican goalkeeper. Ramos, Modric and Vázquez - his nucleus of dressing-room pals - were there supporting him, as well as other players such as Marcelo, Mateo Kovacic, Achraf Hakimi and Jesús Vallejo.
Another ritual that Real have returned to is the now customary photograph of Cristiano Ronaldo, Casemiro and Marcelo preparing to board the plane at Madrid airport. The trio were snapped together before flying to France for Real's last-16 second leg against Paris Saint-Germain in March and, after securing a comprehensive aggregate victory at the Parc des Princes, they repeated the shot in the next two rounds - then did likewise ahead of their flight to Kiev on Thursday.
A por ellos valientes!! Hala Madrid y Nada Más. pic.twitter.com/nVmVdTlFv3— Tomás Roncero (@As_TomasRoncero) 25 May 2018
Cristiano, Casemiro and Marcelo pose for customary photo
Meanwhile, some Real players insisted on being interviewed by the same outlets as in previous final-winning years during Los Blancos' Champions League media day on Tuesday, and the board has invited former presidents of the club to the match in the belief that they will bring Zidane's men good luck in the Olympic Stadium (although they were not taken to Ukraine by the team's lucky flight crew).
It's all aimed at getting Ol' Big Ears into the Bernabéu trophy cabinet once again.