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Courtois: "Chelsea are the favourites, but Barça were too"

AS AS 21/04/2014 As.com

Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has spoken to FIFA.com about the Rojiblancos’ upcoming Champions League semi-final against parent club Chelsea. The 21-year-old admitted that Atleti are underdogs – but that they’ve already turned the form book upside down this season.

Great season: “I didn’t expect it. I remember playing my first game in the Belgian league just before turning 17 and dreaming of having a good career over there, but I didn’t imagine playing for a big club or winning trophies like these. And now we’re not far away from the most important one of them all, the Champions League. We’ve got the La Liga title close too which, because of Barcelona and Real Madrid, you never think you’ll get the chance to win. They’ve got better individuals but we’re a very good team and that’s important, because you don’t need to rely on any one player to win the championship. It’s going to be hard to repeat all this though. We’re having a huge season and, now we’ve got this far, we’ve got to try and take advantage. It’ll be tough to take if it ends without us winning anything, but it won’t be for lack of trying.”

Feelings as he prepares to face parent club Chelsea: “Very relieved. For me, the fact that we’ve drawn Chelsea, like we did in the [2012] European Super Cup, is special, because even though I’m at Atleti, Chelsea are my club too. It’s better not to think about it too much though and play like I always do, because if I start thinking, ‘Oh, I’d better be careful’, then I’ll end up playing poorly. I want to win trophies here and I’ll be an Atleti supporter for these two games, but at all other times I’m a Chelsea fan too. I hope they win the Premier League, just not these two [Champions League] matches. I really hope we can reach the final as we’re so close. They’re the favourites, but Barça were too."

Key to Atlético’s success: “So much of this success is down to [coach Diego] Simeone because he’s the man who’s guided us this far. From the first time he spoke to us when he was appointed, he told us he had a very clear idea about how he wanted things to be done and how he wanted us to play. That clarity has been one of the keys. You might be out for five weeks but when you come back you know exactly what you have to do, because the way we set ourselves out doesn’t change. We know what each player’s role is.”

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Belgium: a country with a history of great goalkeepers: “I’ve seen videos of them and I like to watch how they positioned themselves, but football has changed a lot since then. You can’t compare players from 30 years ago to current ones, because the speed of the game is different and keepers have to be much more complete now. The goalkeepers I used to admire when I was growing up, the ones I watched closely to try and learn from, were [Iker] Casillas and [Edwin] Van der Sar.”

First World Cup memory: “I remember the final of the 1998 World Cup in France and then watching Belgium at the 2002 World Cup. Our coach Marc Wilmots was part of that side and we were knocked out by Brazil. The game was 0-0 and he scored a goal, but the ref disallowed it and, well, that was the last big game Belgium played at a World Cup [Brazil ran out 2-0 winners]. Let’s see how far we can go this time.“

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