If, as expected, Thibaut Courtois plays in tonight’s big game against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, the Belgian will make his 100th Chelsea appearance.
The Blues goalkeeper, an ever-present in the Premier League this season, has taken just over two-and-a-half seasons to reach the milestone, and in terms of an occasion on which to join the 100-match club, they don’t come much bigger.
Courtois made his Chelsea debut in our opening game of the 2014/15 campaign, away at Burnley (pictured below), and he ended his first season at the club having helped us win both the Premier League title and League Cup. With the team in a strong position to achieve further success over the next couple of months, the 24-year-old is pleased with the way in which his time at the club has gone up until now.
‘I would have maybe expected to reach 100 games a bit earlier but obviously last season I missed almost three months, and around 20 matches, so I probably would have got there sooner without injury,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘But I’m really proud to reach that milestone for a great club like Chelsea and I hope to achieve many more.
‘When I came back here the goal was to win trophies with a very competitive team, so to achieve that in my first season was fantastic.
‘Obviously last season wasn’t a great one because I was injured and the team had some disappointing results. It wasn’t a nice experience but to fight back this season and be top of the league, as well as in the semi-final of the FA Cup, is really good. I’m happy with how my time here has gone and I hope to add more silverware in the future.’
Pep Guardiola will be the man in the opposing dugout as we attempt to overcome Man City this evening, and the Spaniard’s arrival in the Premier League has led to discussion about the importance of modern-day goalkeepers being able to instigate attacks with their ability on the ball.
‘It all depends on what type of football your manager wants you to play,’ says Courtois. ‘Antonio likes us to play out from the back so we need a goalkeeper who has the ability to pass the ball, and is not afraid to receive the ball and open the game up. It’s important for our game and probably even more so for Man City, who go maybe one step further.
‘In general, most goalkeepers of the new generation will be brought up being able to produce good passes, but ultimately what’s most important is to save balls. It’s nice to have a goalkeeper who is very strong with his feet but in the end you want him to make saves which help you win the game.
‘The hand capacity, and the saves you make, are always more important than your feet, but these days both are important.’
Tonight’s match, which pits first against fourth, takes on added significance for the Blues following our 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Prior to the weekend reverse, our last Premier League defeat came against Tottenham in early January, and we responded well to that particular setback by winning our next four games.
‘It would be good if we can do that again,’ Courtois says. ‘Obviously it’s a big game and in matches like this anything can happen so it’s difficult to say whether you will win, lose or draw. The result can depend on small details but let’s see what we can do. I hope we can win the game and bounce back from Saturday.
‘I don’t think we played a bad game against Crystal Palace, we were just a bit unlucky. Maybe defensively the two goals were given away but after that we were a bit unfortunate not to score a second goal because I think if we had, we would have gone on to beat them. We just have to remain calm, we’re still seven points ahead and we need to stay focused and relaxed.
‘Our victory at the Etihad earlier in the season maybe helps us feel a bit more confident about tonight’s game. We know what to expect. The away game was very tough but the small details were in our favour that day. Hopefully we can get a similar result this time.’
Thibaut Courtois has picked his five best saves from his 99 games as a Chelsea player, and you can select your favourite below.