ATLÉTICO | COURTOIS
Courtois: “Madrid have lost quality since Özil left”
The Bernabéu had always been a bogey ground for the Belgian keeper until he put in grand display during May’s Copa del Rey final.
A few days ago, you said you felt under less pressure going into this derby. What did you mean?
When I first arrived at Atlético, the only thing that people talked about was how long it had been since we had won the derby. Later, we went on to beat Madrid in the Copa del Rey final and that took a lot of the pressure off in the sense that people no longer spoke about our barren run like they had before. Obviously there is always pressure because it’s a derby but not like before. When you play against Real Madrid, it’s not just about getting all three points, you want to beat them because they are the eternal rival.
That Copa del Rey final performance showed that Atleti are worthy opponents didn’t it?
I think that has always been the case. When you have gone for so many years without winning the derby, it’s normal that people have their doubts but last season, we proved that we are worthy opponents against Madrid.
Briefly, can you describe the following Madrid players, starting with Cristiano...
I was up against him recently with Belgium. He’s strong and he knows how to score goals.
He’s a good keeper who makes great saves.
At least now you don’t have to face Mesut Özil...
Without him, I think Madrid have lost a little quality to their game. Özil has incredible vision and an ability to play in that killer, final pass. He can open up defences with his through balls. Although I have to admit, they have other players who can do that too.
After the Elche-Madrid episode, are you worried about the refereeing on Saturday?
I didn’t watch the game live; it’s just part of football.
What are your thoughts on Atleti’s start to the new campaign?
I culd never have imagined that we would have 18 points at this point of the season. The team is looking compact and we are in great physical shape thanks to the work we put in during the pre-season. The season is long but we’re going to give it our best shot.
Are you aware that if Atlético win, they will record their best ever start to any season?
I’ve heard that but records don’t let you win trophies. It’s nice, like my achievements last season were, but that’s not what inspires me to defend my goal and try to keep a clean sheet. We have to take each game as it comes and treat this one, the derby, like a final.
Will you renew your contract with Chelsea?
It’s too early to talk about that. We’ll see what happens in March or thereabouts.