INTERVIEW | 11/02/2019"We'll need to be focused, defend well and hurt them whenever we can", commented the shotstopper in an interview with UEFA's media channels.
Thibaut Courtois previewed the Champions League last-16 tie against Ajax in an interview with UEFA's official media channels: "Ajax are tough opponents, but we hope to be able to get through. It'll be an open tie and we'll see two fine games because they like to play good football and they won't sit back in their own half".
Real Madrid have dominated the Champions League. What do you think makes the club so successful in this competition?
It's my first year here and I can’t say what it is either. On the one hand, there is the quality of the players and, on the other, it’s a team that focuses very well on its objectives. If the goal is the Champions League, this team can win it. That's something that's part of Real Madrid has and that's why I think it's the best club in the world.
What do you make of the tie against Ajax?
They have a good team, with a mixture of experience and young talented players, and they play good football. It’ll be an open tie because they like to play football and will not sit back in their own half. They will not just defend, we'll see two good matches. Hopefully we can win. We'll have to concentrate, defend well and hurt them when we can.
What’s it like to be a Real Madrid goalkeeper?
The goalkeeper is always the last person to try to stop a goal and there’s always a lot of pressure because there’s no margin for error in goal. A lot of the time, if the goalkeeper makes a mistake, it almost always ends in a goal. There’s always pressure and here at Real Madrid it’s the same. I don’t think it changes that much from goal to goal. You know you're at the best club in the world, the biggest, and there are a lot of people who watch Real Madrid. You know there are lots of eyes on the game but that doesn’t change being a goalkeeper for Real Madrid, Chelsea or other teams.
How would you define the club's philosophy?
Real Madrid are a winning club and you are here to help the club add to its history, to win more trophies. We fight every day for that.
How do you usually prepare for Champions League matches?
It’s the same for every game. I watch videos of the offensive patterns of a team, penalties, fouls and a bit about how the forwards finish. That doesn’t change if it’s a Champions League, LaLiga or cup match. As I am Belgian, I sometimes watch Dutch TV and they’re already looking at what we’ve been doing, how we’re playing and what Ajax can do. They’re a tough team but I hope we can make it through.
Real Madrid usually play in the opposition's half and have a lot of the ball. What's your role like in terms of being focused for the three or four times that the opposition threaten your goal?
You've always got to remain focused. When we're going forward it's very important to be alert because the team has pushed really high up the field and so you also have to come out of your goal. You have to play a little bit in that area between the lines. An example of that is the Roma away game, where I came out of my box two or three times to cut out a counter-attack. Those are the things you've got to be wary of and that's why you've always got to keep your focus.
Who has been the toughest striker you've come up against in the Champions League?
In the Champions League, because you always face players of the very top level, there are a number of top strikers in each team. You've always got to be wary because although a player may not have a big name doesn't mean to say that they're not capable of sticking one past you in the top corner.
Throughout your career the role of a goalkeeper has changed. You're now asked to have good technique and be good with the ball at your feet. What do you make of these changes?
In the past 10 years, more has been asked of the new generation of goalkeepers, like being good on the ball, playing in the space... That wasn't the case 20 years ago. When I played as a child, in Genk, I was already being asked to use my feet and so I've grown up with that. Your role also depends on which team you play football and whether you're asked to play a long ball or play out from the back. Today a goalkeeper's role involves far more than just keeping the ball out of the net. It's also all about playing in that space, using your feet, covering the gap between the defence and yourself and the balls that come into that area...