Know your enemy
“We’ll have a team meeting where the coaches will go through the opposition – how they play as a team and what each player does as an individual. This helps us see where they’re weak and where we can punish them. I also like to draw on past performances against an opponent. If I’ve played well against a defender previously I’ll head into the game feeling confident. If not, I’ll just try to do what comes to me naturally and trust my ability.”
Save your energy
“If we’re playing on a Saturday afternoon, we’ll have a light training session on a Friday. It keeps our legs ticking over, but we don’t want to push ourselves too hard. You want to save as much energy as possible for the game. As soon as I get home from training I relax and try to get 9-10 hours sleep that night. I try not to spend too much time thinking about the game. Once I’m out on the pitch, I feel fully refreshed and focused.”
Prep your body and mind
“On a match day I get to the ground an hour and a half before kick-off, mingle with the players in the dressing room and stretch. Everyone has their own individual programme and routine. I like to make sure I’m fully hydrated before a game so that I can keep my energy levels up for 90 minutes. The players like to listen to rap and dance music to get them fired up. I’m not tense before a match; I just relax and think about playing my natural game.”
Start with a bang
“It’s always good to start the game with a positive first touch. You have to choose the right time to run at defenders, but if you can get an early run at them that lets them know what they’re in for, do it. If the defender gets the better of you first time out, don’t dwell on it – just keep trusting your ability. Confidence is half the battle. Press the defender when they have the ball. Force them into mistakes and knock their confidence. You want to get them worrying about you.”
Show no mercy
“When you’re battering a defender you have to keep running at them. Don’t let up. When I’m in a game like that I don’t want it to end. If they’re getting tired and you can see they’re demoralised, take confidence from that. Usually they’ll try and bring someone over to help them, but don’t let that faze you. Keep trying to isolate that defender so you can run at them and take advantage of their tired legs. If they’re blowing and start backing off, that gives you room to take a shot.”
Build mental resilience
“I never react when opposition players try and get in my head. If you respond by saying something, that means they’re getting to you. I just say nothing, let them talk and when I get the ball I run at them to show them they haven’t affected me. I get the better of them by letting my football do the talking. Defenders have started to kick me more and sometimes teams will put three players on me, but this has forced me to develop and find solutions for different scenarios.”
Gareth Bale is fuelled by Lucozade Sport. Lucozade Sport hydrates and fuels you better than water
For more football tips see:
Lucas Moura: Dribble the Brazilian way
Accelerate and beat your man like Messi
Angel di Maria on the art of wing play
Andres Iniesta: How to boss the midfield
Michael Ballack: How to be the complete midfielder
Yaya Toure: Dominate the middle of the park
Jack Wilshere: How to keep possession
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