Two weeks ago saw one of the games of the season as Barcelona travelled to the Bernabeu in what is probably the world’s biggest club game El Clasico – and what a game it was.
Madrid went straight at Barcelona and they were appealing for a penalty after 91 seconds, when Cristiano Ronaldo was caught by Samuel Umtiti, and that proved just the start of a breathless game. Two teams went for each other and it was hard to keep up, so much was happening.
And the very last kick of the game could not have been more perfectly executed nor more dramatically delivered with the game at 2-2, Lionel Messi guiding the ball inside the post to take his team top. It was the 500th goal of his career and it prompted his coach Luis Enrique to say: “He is the best player in history.”
Due to its significance – it could have been a title decider – you’d think the two teams would have been training day and night for this occasion. You’d have thought both camps would have had a strict “no fun” policy and anyone seen messing around would have been dropped immediately.
But according to reports, that appears to be some way off the mark. In fact, Barcelona and Real Madrid have so much fun at training they’re apparently oblivious to the pressure El Clasico brings. Or perhaps that is the best way to show your rivals it isn’t causing you stress!
But it isn’t only the big clubs that have local rivals they love to beat – there are plenty of grassroots teams across the world who want bragging rights in the playground the next day.
Playing rivals can put pressure on a young team, but a good coach can prepare players to give them every chance of winning. Maybe it is having fun that players need before the big event?
Try my 10 tips for beating your deadly rivals below:
10 Tips For Beating Your Deadly Rivals
1. Imagine your win
In your last training session before the game, tell your players to visualise themselves in their kit as they are lying in bed on the night before the match. Get them to imagine what they will do if the ball gets crossed into the box and what movement they will make to get on the end of it. This can help them cope with the real thing on match day.
2. Be prepared
Your team stands more chance of beating rivals if you are better prepared as a manager. If you’ve got time, watch your opponents and work out their weaknesses. Make sure you’ve got your team selection and tactics right – if you prepare your players better, it will stand them in good stead.
3. Demotivate players
Coming into a game against school friends, best friends or bitter enemies, your players will be on a high. They’ll sleep less, be more nervous and have more energy burning. You don’t need to wind them up – for this game you will need to keep them calm so you may even have to demotivate them. Try to get them ready as you would for any other game.
4. Banish nerves
Watch out for phone calls on the morning of the match from players who find it scary because they fear the backlash in the playground if they lose. Go through the squad and chat reassuringly with any players you fear suffer from nerves. Tell them the team is strong and will stick together, win or lose.
5. Pick the right players
Make sure you’ve selected the calmest heads for the roles that can make a difference. Many players might tell you they want to take a penalty, but the reality could be different, so choose the player with the most confidence before the game starts so everyone is aware of who will be taking it. Similarly, select a captain who can do the job confidently.
6. Keep it short
Keep your pre-match team talk short and sharp. The players need to be told not to worry about mistakes and that they are all there to cover for each other because they’re in it together. Remind them how they must stick together as a team and how each of them has to do their own job well to achieve this.
7. Scare your rivals
The best way to scare rivals is with confidence, so tell your players they need to encourage their teammates at all times. Before kick-off get everyone to go around the team shaking hands and high fiving. An air of positivity will flow through the team and your opponents won’t help but notice this confident attitude.
8. Create a buzz
A team huddle before kick-off is a good way to reaffirm the team’s strength and solidarity. You may want to finish on a buzzword that the team can shout out to encourage a feeling of togetherness. Something like “let’s go for it” or “let’s get ’em” should give that last bit of motivation.
9. Encourage players
You know what encouragement works with each player, so tell them on an individual basis what you need them to do. For some an arm around the shoulder will work best, while for others it will take a fist pumping “come on”. Show on a tactics board what’s going right or wrong and point to three key factors that demonstrate what they’ve got to do as a team to get better.
10. Keep the pressure off
You may be losing so tell your players to relax. If they’re not worried they will start to play properly. Don’t think you’ve got to motivate them – try and relax them, tell them it’s only a game and to pass the ball around and enjoy their football. It might just help them win the game.