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Courtois: “It feels like the NBA, playing Athletic so many times”

The goalkeeper previewed Sunday’s Super Cup final against the Basque side. 

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPER CUP-BARCELONA-REAL MADRID Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will face Athletic Club in Sunday’s Super Cup final, meeting the Basque side once again after also facing them on December 1st and 22nd in LaLiga Santander. Speaking in the player press conference and asked if this makes it more boring or if it can be advantage to have faced the same team so frequently, Thibaut Courtois said: “It’s almost like the NBA, playing Athletic so many times. But, each football match is different and tomorrow’s game could be very different to the other ones we just played. Next week, the back-to-back cup and league games against Elche should be different too.”

Courtois is just glad to have another final, saying: “We have many players with experience of playing finals, but our opponents also played three finals last season and they won one of them. The coach will motivate us before the game tomorrow, but we also don’t need much motivation because we’re playing for a trophy. We didn’t get to play any finals last season.”

The last final that Real Madrid played was actually the 2019/20 Super Cup against Atlético Madrid. Then, Real Madrid won on penalties and Courtois was decisive. The Belgian was asked if he feels that was a turning point in his Los Blancos career, but he thinks the turning point came before that. He revealed: “I think the match away at Galatasaray was the one that changed my time here the most, as then I went on a run of good form. Then, saving that penalty in the shootout was also big. I feel I had a good season last year too, but it can get forgotten about by people outside the club because we didn’t win any trophies.”

Courtois on the change in centre-back pairing

During his press conference, Courtois was asked what it has been like to go from Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane to David Alaba and Éder Militão. He said: “I have liked playing with all four. Rapha and Sergio are Real Madrid legends. But, we now have a great partnership with Mili, Nacho and Alaba. We aren’t conceding many goals this season. We hope to have another good game defensively tomorrow.”

Courtois on defending set pieces

The issue of defending set pieces came up too and the goalkeeper revealed: “Set pieces are key in modern football, as you can score from nothing. We have changed our positioning at corners and freekicks this season, which requires adaptation, but I think we are doing that well. We’ll have to focus and be strong at set pieces tomorrow and in defence generally.”

Courtois on criticism of Real Madrid’s style

Asked about the team’s style of play and the accusations of being too focused on the counter attack, the goalkeeper replied: “I don’t think we’re a counter-attacking team. We’re a team that plays all styles. We can have possession or we can defend more. We can play the ball out from the back, starting with me. Then, there are matches like the other day when you’re going to defend more. With the speed of Vini and Rodrygo and Karim, it makes sense to play on the counter sometimes. We can attack when we have to attack and defend when we have to defend.

Courtois on Hazard’s lack of minutes

Eden Hazard is back out of the team and Courtois was asked for his thoughts on his international teammate. He said: “These decisions are hard for the coach when so many wingers are playing well. One place is for Vinícius, then there are many competing well for the other wing. But, Eden has done well when he’s played. I’m sure he’ll do well tomorrow if he plays.”

Courtois on Vinícius’ evolution

Discussing the progress made by Vinícius, who joined the club the same year that Courtois did, the Belgian said: “I’ve seen him since the first day and he’s obviously improved. He’s getting better with age, confidence and maybe he feels freer mentally. He’s getting better at finishing, having worked hard in lots of sessions on this with Zidane last year and speaking with Karim. He has a lot of quality and this season it’s coming off. He scored the goal against Barcelona the other day very and that was not an easy finish. Everyone here is happy for him.”

Courtois on the lighting at the King Fahd Stadium

The floodlights at the King Fahd Stadium have made headlines, with players complaining about poor lighting during the semi-finals. On this, Courtois said: “It’s true that the lighting isn’t as clear as in the Spanish league, when night games feel like it’s day. You have to adapt to it. I’d say it’s different more than bad.”