On Saturday we held the usual two training sessions in Dubai, each of which was preceded by theory.
The morning session was more strength-oriented, while the evening one featured a fully-fledged mock match. The only players to miss out on it were Pavel Maslov and Roman Zobnin, who worked individually with the physio.
The game between “reds” and “yellows” consisted of three periods, 15 minutes each. During the last period players were only allowed to make two touches when they got the ball, which made an already intense encounter even more dynamic.
“Reds” won 3-1, with Pedro Rocha netting a hat-trick. He opened the scoring with a distance strike, added a second following a Ze Luis low cross, before completing the hat-trick late on, firing into an empty net after the “yellows” keeper went up for a corner.
Georgy Melkadze netted the only goal for the “yellows” (Mikhail Ignatov grabbing the assist). He nearly assisted Ayrton too, but the linesman raised his flag for offside.
After the third goal we caught up with the hat-trick hero Pedro Rocha and asked him a couple of questions.
— Congratulations on the hat-trick! Was it partly down to luck, or simply the result of hard graft during the first days of pre-season?
— A bit of both. I had luck on my side, but I think hard work paid off for me first and foremost.
— You’ve joined Spartak 16 months ago. Feeling different now, compared to August 2017?
— Of course there is a difference. I needed time to adapt. Now it’s behind me, I feel part of the team. I understand my teammates better, something that helped me today.
— Does the head coach’s trust come into it? Has he spoken to you?
— Most certainly. He has spoken to me on many occasions. Said that he views me as an important player, that he counts on me. When the head coach trusts you, puts his faith in you, that helps.
— What can you say about the training process? It appears the speed of decision-making on the ball has increased.
— Every coach has his own philosophy. Our coach puts an emphasis on working with the ball, on different playing drills. The team appreciates it. A lot of the time the first pre-season tour focus is purely on running, off-the-ball exercises. It’s different now. We enjoy it and hope it will bear fruit in official matches.