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Are Real Madrid Fighting Fit or Is It a Smokescreen?

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11: Real Madrid players pose for a team photo line up prior to start the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 11, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

Football clubs in general are the masters of deception. Their mind games aren't just restricted to the press conferences and interviews of their managers.

Some fans refuse to believe that the team they so dearly cherish and adore would do anything untoward. It's a blind loyalty that suggests anyone questioning such issues are not real supporters.

However, such fans are quick to point out their rivals' misdoings. "We do things right and you do things wrong" is the gist of the argument.

At Real Madrid's Valdebebas training facility on Thursday, the squad underwent a series of medical tests to see what sort of shape they are currently in, per the English version of Spanish paper Marca.

Carlos Diez, head of Real's medical services, was on hand to offer this soundbite: "The football players of the first team are in great shape to face the coming months of the tournament, as is reflected by the results obtained. The constant efforts to avoid injury and the detailed attention given to the players is vital to ensure maximum performance out on the pitch."

It's difficult to ascertain whether this is actually the case without being present at the training ground . Their expert in the field is telling us the situation, so who are we to cast aspersions that the information is incorrect?

It's just a little bit of a generalisation, to announce that the whole of the squad "are in great shape," and if so, is there a need to show the pictures in the paper?

Real Madrid has certainly had its problems with injuries during the campaign, as most clubs generally do throughout a demanding and gruelling schedule. Competing for the La Liga title, Copa del Rey and Champions League requires the full use of the personnel available and a bit of fortune in the crucial stages.

There's a misconception that the majority of injuries are down to luck, when fatigue and training regimes play a big part in numerous minor knocks.

Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen specialises in this area and has worked alongside Frank Rijkaard for Holland. He was also a football-conditioning consultant for Barcelona and Manchester City in the past.

"Football is a team sport so players train as a team but within those team training sessions you have to tailor the workload to each and every player," Verheijen told Footyplace.

"With an explosive player like Craig Bellamy I explain to him that he is the Jaguar waiting at the traffic lights and waiting next to him is this little car with a small engine. When the traffic lights turn green he will accelerate quickly and the little car next to him will accelerate slowly.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11:  Gareth Bale of Real Madrid CF grimaces in pain after being tackled by Emiliano Insua of Atletico de Madrid during the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Cald
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

"I ask him which of those two cars has to go to the gas station sooner and obviously he will say the Jaguar because when you accelerate quickly you take more fuel out of your tank," continues Verheijen.

Could this be an explanation as to why Gareth Bale has struggled to stay fit throughout his time in Madrid? The Welshman didn't have a pre-season and so doesn't have that base; is he trying too hard to impress?

With Bale and Raphael Varane returning from injury, their only long-term casualty is German midfielder Sami Khedira. Is this the reason the public relations exercise took place this week?

Los Blancos play 10 matches in the next 43 days, including Champions League, a Madrid derby and a Clasico. Only time will tell if this photo shoot was for show or if they are ready for the challenges ahead.

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