Discipline wins matches and strong discipline wins the bigger ones. Atlético's mind games will go on between now and kick-off time so it's vital Real's players put self-discipline at the top of their preparation lists.
We know Atlético are going to "pressure high" and that Diego Simeone expects a "high intensity encounter". That simply means they'll be putting the emphasis on denying Real the time and space to play. Cholo's instructions will be to not give anyone in Real's team the opportunity to settle on the ball. He'll be hoping to force Real into conceding possession in vital areas and the easiest way to do that is to win free kicks by making the opposition lose their discipline.
Games are often won and lost as a result of conceding silly and unnecessary free kicks and that's got to be one of the things Zinedine Zidane will be emphasising as the team gets ready to take the field.
With all the pre-match razzmatazz it's easy to get swept up in the atmosphere of the occasion and get carried away with the proceedings. Once the match kicks-off though, the focus for the players needs to be on mentally dismissing the delay due to the events of the ten minutes or so that they'll have been on the pitch before the game actually got started. The opening few minutes of playing time are vital for settling in and being mentally ready not to bite at the first sign of a late challenge or an over-physical but technically fair tackle.
Individual players need to prepare for the two potentially contrasting openings to the game. The first ten or fifteen minutes could see both teams sounding each out and adopting a cautious approach; waiting to see how the opposition are likely to approach the tie. Or it could be blood and thunder with strong challenges being made in the opening minutes as each side sets out their stall for what is to follow. We know Atlético aren't going to sit back and allow Real to play so the cautious approach may not really be the one on the cards for today; but often the element of surprise can make all the difference.
From arriving at the ground to locking the changing room doors, Real's players will be preparing themselves in their own individual ways in addition to the group warm-ups on the field. Personal headphones will be playing so those who don't like the choice of music booming out in the changing room can listen to what they feel motivates them the most, and they'll all be doing their own specific loosening-up exercises. The physios will be helping to stretch those hamstrings just that little bit more than they can do themselves and the massage therapists will be working overtime.
For those who feel it helps, the coloured kinesiotape designed to stimulate the muscles will have been applied earlier to make sure it sticks properly - there's nothing worse than a strapping that doesn't feel right - and the ankles and shoulders will be taped for those who require it. Every tiny individual detail will be given the attention that it deserves; as Marcelo said in midweek, it's the little things that can make a difference.
Some players will be laughing and joking as they are getting ready while you won't get a word out of others apart from a nodded acknowledgement to Zidane or any of the coaches who make any last-minute points relative to their role in the game. The real tactical work will have been done long before now and there will be only individual reminders needed at this point. Everyone will know their own role. Strengths will be emphasised throughout the few hours preceding kick-off and although it's an old adage, the coach will be seen to be quietly motivating his team. Zidane only needs to speak and people listen so any last minute points he makes at this stage will certainly be worthwhile.
As the atmosphere in the dressing room gradually changes from relaxed to that of a more focussed tension reflecting the collective and individual concentration required, everyone at that stage will have acknowledged the enormity of the event. The talk is going to be all about the game; strong awareness of everyone's own individual responsibilities will be there as the socks are pulled on, the boots tested for comfort and the laces tightened.
Natural nervousness will be superseded by the anticipation of what lies ahead and they'll be itching to get on the pitch and get the game started. Hanton and Jones (1999) said that everyone gets butterflies; and on the big occasions it's all about getting them to fly in formation. The development of mental toughness and how it affects elite performers is a well-researched theme in top-level sport (Connaughton et al, 2008) and it's often mental toughness that wins games.
Zidane and co will have been stressing that in the days gone by. Now it's up to the players to show how they're going to respond to the occasion, adapt to the "high intensity encounter" and to meeting the challenge of being European Champions once again.
Connaughton D, Wadley R, Hanton S, Jones G (2008). The development and maintenance of mental toughness: Perceptions of elite performers. Journal of Sports Sciences. Vol. 26 (1); 83 - 95.
Hanton S, Jones G (1999). The acquisition and development of cognitive skills and strategies: I. Making the butterflies fly in formation. The Sport Psychologist. Vol 13 (1); 1 -21