Lopetegui changes Real Madrid's pre-match travel routine

Despite tomorrow's 18:30 kick-off in Vitoria against Alavés, the squad will travel on the day of the game. The players didn't stay over before the Roma match.


Julen Lopetegui has broken away from the standard pre-match routine Real Madrid have followed during the past few years. Trips away from home are different to how they were under Ancelotti, Benítez and Zidane, whose teams would always travel the day before the match - especially ahead of a Champions League match the following week. However,  Madrid have an early evening kick-off meeting with Alavés in Vitoria tomorrow but despite that, they will set off for northern Spain at 10:30 hours tomorrow morning. The squad will spend the hours before the game relaxing at the Gran Hotel Lakua before taking the team bus to Mendizorroza for the match. Madrid have two nights booked at the hotel, the most luxurious in Vitoria, for Friday and Saturday. But in the end they won't make use of both nights even though the club will honour the original booking of two nights.

Travelling hours before the game

It's a strange decision, to fly on the day of the game for a match which kicks off relatively early - and odd that they would choose to do so when the team is in such a delicate situation, after three disappointing results - two of them in the league. Under such circumstances, the normal thing to do would be to organize a stayover so that the players are able to relax. Lopetegui denied that the decision to travel on the game has emerged as a result of pressure from the dressing room: “For away games starting at 16:15 hours or later, we'll travel on the same day. It's a very short flight, only 25 minutes. No one has asked me to do it that way, it's been organized by us, the coaching staff”.

Changes ahead of Champions League home games

It's not the only pre-match custom which Lopetegui has changed - the stayovers prior to Champions League matches have also been modified. With Zidane, the players would spend the eve of the game at the players' residence in Valdebebas before all home games at the Bernabéu. The standard procedure was for the players to report to the stadium where they would leave their cars, then all leave together on the team bus for Real Madrid City where they would remain under after the game. However, before the Matchday 1 game against Roma, the players lept at home and convened on the morning of the match.

Lopetegui applied a similar routine during his time as Spain coach - a regime which Luis Rubiales insisted on changing when he came to power as RFEF president. New Spain coach Luis Enrique, who took over when Lopetegui was sacked from the post, employs more or less the same protocol which all members of the squad must comply to: a set hour to wake up, have breakfast and retire to the players' quarters; having the afternoon free is now a thing of the past; the players are prohibited from taking their mobile phones into the communal dining room; anyone arriving late will be fined; flights to away games are direct with no stopovers...