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UEFA League: Courtois ready for penalties against Liverpool

 

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has said he will not be afraid to take a penalty if their Champions League final against Liverpool goes the distance on Saturday.

Courtois has an impressive record saving penalties this season, having stopped three of his five faced, including one from Lionel Messi against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the last 16.

It proved a crucial moment as Madrid came back from 1-0 down in the second leg to win the tie 3-2.

The Belgian was also instrumental in Madrid’s most recent penalty shoot-out victory in 2020, as he dived to palm away Thomas Partey’s shot in the final of the Spanish Super Cup against Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid won their last Champions League final that went to penalties, also against Atletico in 2016.

Courtois said he will be doing his homework on Liverpool’s most likely takers while the 30-year-old said he is also ready to step up if required.

“I remember in pre-season with Chelsea against PSG I scored one and in the Community Shield against Arsenal I missed one,” said Courtois. “(Antonio) Conte put me there because he knew I could shoot well, but obviously standing on the spot, in an important moment, is different.

“I wouldn’t be one of the first five (takers), for sure, but maybe after, if you need to shoot, you have to shoot. I don’t fear it. It’s a moment to shine.

“We won one (shoot-out) against Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup a few years ago when I saved one penalty. This season I have saved three.

“You study ahead. Against Chelsea we had two penalties and you study them, because you can see the similarities. Hopefully it will not come back to that but if it does, I will be ready.”

Mohamed Salah has already said he wants revenge for their loss to Real Madrid in the 2018 final, when two errors by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gifted Madrid the win.

Liverpool signed Alisson Becker a few weeks later for a world-record 75 million euros and the Brazilian has been a revelation ever since.

“He is a great goalkeeper,” said Courtois. “The times I have played against him in England and with Real, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

“He has great quality and has saved Liverpool a lot of times. Nowadays you need a good defence and goalkeeper and at the other end you need strikers who score you goals, that is what takes you far.”

“If you go back 15 or 20 years it was really different,” Courtois added. “To be a goalkeeper now you have to be a playmaker from the back, you have to come out as a ‘libero’ to (meet) the ball in behind and run out and take it.

“They expect you to be calm on the ball and to make decisive passes but obviously you don’t have someone behind you that can save you because you are the last man.

“You know that sometimes there can be a mistake and I hope it is not coming for me. I don’t want to wish that on any goalkeeper.”

Real Madrid have shown their magic touch again in the Champions League this season, after staging three consecutive comebacks against PSG, Chelsea and then Manchester City to reach the final.

“You just have to see the games we played at home against Paris, Chelsea and City. The moment we equalise or score that goal, the reaction of the other team – you can see that they know what can happen,” Courtois said.

“You can see at 1-1 against City, the reaction of the players. That is what makes Madrid so special, that is why it is so amazing and people talk so much about the history of Real Madrid.”

Real Madrid will be going for a record-extending 14th European Cup while Liverpool will be chasing their seventh, to pull level with AC Milan as the second most successful club in the competition’s history.

Liverpool have already won the League Cup and FA Cup in England this season.

“We don’t have to go crazy because it’s a game that could go back and forth,” said Courtois. “We have to be clear about how we want to play and not play their game. We have to make them play our game, that’s the important thing.”

*Courtesy: AFP

 

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