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Courtois: “This tie vs Chelsea will be different, as we have fans and the second leg at home”

The goalkeeper previewed the Champions League tie and also spoke about his former club’s off-the-pitch issues.

Real Madrid Training and Press Conference - Stamford Bridge - Tuesday April 5th Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

For the third time in a row, Real Madrid didn’t hold a coach’s press conference, since Carlo Ancelotti is still missing with COVID-19 and none of his assistants spoke to the media in his stead. But, with this being a Champions League week, we did get a player press conference and Thibaut Courtois was the one to answer questions ahead of the Chelsea first leg.

Analysing the tie and discussing the differences from last year’s meeting, Courtois stated: “It’s a new season. Last season was different since it was semi-finals and later in the season, there were no fans then and it was the second leg that we played away. We saw in the last round how we pulled off a comeback at the Bernabéu. We want to bring this tie back to the Bernabéu too. The away goal rule changes it a little. We saw that in the last round when the 2-1 turnaround had already earned us at least extra time, even though we won 3-1 anyway. Before, we’d have known that we needed three goals. I think that’s a good rule change.”

On Ancelotti’s absence, Courtois stressed that this shouldn’t be too significant a setback, telling the media: “Luckily his assistant is his son, so it’s quite similar! But, there’s a complete and good staff there and it has been possible to have a videocall with him. As for his absence from the dugout, I think the coaching staff did very well in Vigo and I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem here.”

He added that the team is motivated and that he feels good on a personal level, despite the fact he is often left out of lists ranking the best goalkeepers in the world. He said: “We’re motivated and we’ll give our all to try to win. I will do my part to help the team. I feel like I’m I’m one of the best moments of my career. I think goalkeepers are more important nowadays than before, since it’s not just making saves as it also involves participating in the play. Teams that win titles have a good goalkeeper. But, I don’t need to be told I’m the best. I think with these lists, journalists or other ex-footballers don’t know what it’s like to be a goalkeeper. So, I’d rather the prizes were decided by former goalkeepers like Cech, Casillas, Van der Sar or Kahn.”

Courtois on the criticism of Real Madrid’s season

Asked about the fact that the team has been heavily criticised despite leading the table, Courtois explained that this is to be expected at Real Madrid. After correcting the journalist who asked the question, by pointing out that the gap at the top of LaLiga Santander is 12 points and not nine, he added: “[Criticism] will always be the case at Real Madrid. Even when you win 10 in a row and then lose or draw one, there is criticism. But, it’s true that all we’ve done so far is win the Super Cup, so we need to keep going.”

Courtois on the refereeing controversy in Vigo

The three penalties Real Madrid were awarded in Vigo were brought up too and the goalkeeper gave his view on the controversy, saying: “There can be grey areas, where the referee has to decide. When we had four penalties against us in Valencia, nobody said anything since it was against Real Madrid. Now that it was for us, some people think we’re only winning because of the referees. When we have players who attack well like Benzema, Vinícius, Asensio and Rodrygo, defenders will commit penalties.”

Courtois on Eden Hazard

Asked about Eden Hazard, his club and international teammate who also used to play for Chelsea, Courtois said: “You don’t forget class or talent. He’s had a lot of bad luck with injuries. He needs to recover well for next season and, hopefully, to be in the World Cup. I know this would have been a special game for him, so it’s a shame he can’t be here.”

Courtois on Lukaku’s struggles

Another international teammate is Romelu Lukaku and the goalkeeper was asked about the striker’s struggles since returning to Stamford Bridge. He said: “Romelu is a really great striker, so it’s a bit strange to not see him play so much lately. Obviously there’s other good strikers. If the team is winning, you keep playing the same players. When you change team or coach, it can be difficult. It happened to me my first year in Madrid. I’m sure he’ll come good, but I hope that doesn’t happen tomorrow!”

Courtois on the sanctions against Chelsea

Discussing the English club and the sanctions that have been imposed on them, Courtois said he feels empathy for those who work at his former team. He stated: “I think it’s been a hard month for the club, the fans and the players. You can see that all the people who love Chelsea are putting their energy into the club. I was part of Chelsea for seven years in total and they gave me the chance to be loaned out to Atlético and to grow as a player. They gave me a chance to come back and learn from Petr Cech and win two Premier Leagues. I hope the new owners will understand the club they’re buying, one of the best in the world.”

Courtois on the possibility of boos

Despite loving his time at Chelsea, Courtois didn’t leave on the best of terms and might be jeered on Wednesday. To that, he responded: “I was here for four years and won two leagues and two cups so I have good memories. Transfers are always difficult, so we’ll see tomorrow. But, I’m just trying to focus on reaching the semi-finals with Real Madrid.”