Thibaut Courtois may be a month shy of his 25th birthday, but he’s certainly not lacking in top flight experience or championship knowhow. In fact, last season marked the very first time in his senior professional career that he did not walk away with a trophy at the end of the season, breaking a streak of five seasons where he won either a domestic league or cup, or achieved European glory.
He won the Belgian league with Genk in 2010-11, his first season as their full-time starter at just age 19, prompting Chelsea to snatch him up and send him on what turned out to be a three-year development loan to Atlético Madrid. At Atléti, he won the Europa League (2011-12), the Copa del Rey (2012-13), and lastly the league itself (2013-14), before returning to Chelsea to help the Blues to the Premier League and League Cup double in 2014-15. In short, Courtois knows how to be a winner.
“We have to see game by game, we have to hope we don’t give it away and I strongly believe we won't, but we cannot relax. We have to work hard and do the same work we have been doing for the past six or seven months and if we do that, we can achieve it, but if we think we will win games easily without doing the work we have been doing you can lose points and there will be more pressure. If we keep doing what we are doing we will be fine.”
What Chelsea have been doing is winning and overcoming just about every challenge thrown our way, shock defeat against Crystal Palace aside. Courtois’s not too worried about that little blip.
“What maybe happened against Palace was we were too relaxed at a certain point, because we scored early and we were 10 points ahead, so I think for us it is good to be under pressure, but the pressure is more on the teams behind us who need to win to close the gap. Obviously we have the pressure to keep on winning and keep the gap at seven points, but we can be confident as well.”
If we’ve learned anything over the past few seasons, it’s that confidence can be the mother of all differences when it comes to winning or losing. Right now, confidence is high, so we’re winning (and because we’re winning, confidence is high).
“That is the way we are and that is the way we want to be. They are unbeaten, which for them may be mentally a strong thing, but we know we are in a good shape. We win difficult away games so why not there?”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Chelsea FC
This game will be much tougher undoubtedly than either of our previous two meetings this season, which saw Courtois keeping clean sheets in both. Everybody will need to be at their best.