With thirteen clean sheets to his name this season already, most among all top division goalkeepers in the five biggest leagues around Europe (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France), Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has re-inserted himself into the discussion alongside Manuel Neuer and David De Gea for the best in the world.
However, credit for this achievement should be given to Courtois' teammates as well; defending is a team effort after all. And sure enough, Courtois, who last year had no problems criticizing the defense in front of him, has no problem giving credit where credit is due.
"We defend very well as a team, it’s not only the three or the five in front of me, it’s because all the team do their job and if we play like that it’s hard for other teams to score goals."
"The players don’t want to relax. We know we still have 14 games to go so we just want to show that we are strong and we don’t want to lose points. Next we go to Burnley, which is always difficult. It’s all about the next game and we have to be ready for that."
Chelsea continue to take meaningful strides towards a second Premier League title in three seasons, helped along in part by the lack of European football. The lack of any major injury issues has helped as well (those two could be related); it’s fair to say that our schedule has given Chelsea a bit of an edge over our top six rivals.
But Courtois isn’t quite sold on that idea, pointing out that Chelsea won the title just fine two years ago while fighting on multiple fronts. And nobody wants to miss out on Europe in any case.
"In some ways it’s good, in other ways maybe not. Everybody wants to play in Europe and if you’re in the rhythm of playing a game every three or four days, sometimes you can play better, even though it’s harder at the end of the season."
"We have a lot of people on the bench who want to play and maybe haven’t had as many minutes as they deserve, and if we had European football they would have played more minutes. The other year, when we were champions, we had European football so I don’t think it makes a big difference."
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Chelsea FC
It will be interesting to see how Chelsea and Conte cope with Champions League football next season — nothing’s guaranteed yet of course — and how that might affect the squad’s levels of motivation, concentration, and fitness. Either way, we’re all looking forward to it. After all, we’re still the only Champions of Europe in London.