Thibaut Courtois admits he and Eden Hazard discussed the prospect of joining Real Madrid while still at Chelsea. 

Belgium international Courtois made the move to Madrid in 2018 and was joined at the Santiago Bernabeu by compatriot Hazard 12 months later.

Both players publicly flirted with the Spanish giants before making the switch and Courtois says he openly talked about playing for Madrid with Hazard.

"In the Chelsea dressing room, we spoke about the possibility of playing here," he told El Mundo.

"'The White House, the White House' we said. It was nice to speculate about it.

"Now, we are very eager to win trophies here."

Hazard has been limited to just 15 appearances for Madrid since arriving in a reported €100million deal due to injury and fitness problems.

The 29-year-old broke his ankle prior to the LaLiga campaign being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he has used the near-three-month hiatus as a chance to fully recover in time for the planned restart in mid-June.

"Hazard is back and with a lot of energy," Courtois added.

"The stoppage has enabled him to get fit again. He can help us win the title. He is a key player for us."

Real Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by two points with 11 games to play.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is eyeing the LaLiga title when the season gets back underway.

LaLiga was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Barcelona holding a two-point lead over Madrid when the campaign was stopped.

With a potential resumption in mid-June, Courtois said he was eager to win LaLiga.

"Everyone is looking forward to restarting LaLiga and keeping fighting to win it," he told Real Madrid TV on Tuesday.

Courtois said he was delighted to return to training, welcoming being able to face shots from team-mates once more.

"We couldn't wait to be back at training after two months, being together as a team and despite it being a bit different, it is always nice to come back to Valdebebas to have training," he said.

"Training at home is different, but I think everyone did well, everyone did what the coach has said and everyone keeps fit, everyone is pretty strong."

He added: "Goalkeepers were lucky because we were allowed to do training with the keepers coach last week.

"This week, allowing small groups, team-mates can shoot at us, at least, and you feel it is a real session."

Thibaut Courtois clarified his comments regarding Barcelona, saying he never said Real Madrid should be named LaLiga champions.

The goalkeeper said last week Barca should not be awarded the title if the season was unable to be finished due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But LaLiga is aiming to finish its season and Quique Setien's men hold a two-point lead over Madrid with 11 games to play.

Courtois discussed his comments again on Monday and said he did not call for Madrid to be crowned champions.

"At no point did I say that Real Madrid had to be declared champions," he told Television Espanola.

"If the league ends, we're in a better position even if we lost to [Real] Betis.

"If we play the 11 remaining matches then I am confident that my team can win the league."

Courtois returned to training on Monday with LaLiga aiming to get back underway in mid-June.

The Belgium international was happy to be back, albeit in unusual circumstances due to COVID-19.

"It was good to go back to training a little," Courtois said. "But it was weird, different, but feeling the grass and training is better than nothing."

Thibaut Courtois showed safe hands behind the steering wheel as he got the better of Sergio Aguero in Formula One's Virtual Spanish Grand Prix.

Victory at a simulated Circuit de Catalunya went to Britain's George Russell, racing for the Williams team, who fended off Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in a gripping finish.

The battle of the footballers went the way of Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtois though, with the Belgian's Alfa Romeo placing 12th after the 33-lap contest.

Manchester City striker Aguero marked his debut in the eSport with a solid 14th place, having been battling with golf's Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter at one stage, and the Argentinian said his debut was "not bad".

Poulter ended up 18th for Renault, one place better off than Barcelona midfielder Arthur Melo, whose Haas finished last of the cars that completed the race.

McLaren's Lando Norris pulled out midway through.

Russell started on pole and wound up in a battle over the closing laps with Leclerc, when it became clear they were the class cars in the field.

Victory looked set to go to Leclerc when Russell picked up a three-second penalty, but Monte Carlo driver Leclerc collected the same punishment himself on the penultimate lap, the pair both penalised for cutting corners.

That let 22-year-old Russell cruise to the finish line, celebrating what he said was a first motor racing win for him since 2018, when he was competing in Formula Two.

"I am feeling ecstatic. I'm not used to this winning thing," Russell told Sky Sports. "I've not done it for a long, long time."

He said he was "almost wetting my pants" when news came through of Leclerc's penalty late in the race, having been "angry" about his earlier sanction.

Leclerc felt "very disappointed" to have a likely victory taken away but praised Russell's performance, describing the Englishman, who fell from pole to fifth place in the early stages, as "extremely quick" when it mattered most.

“When he showed his real pace towards the end he was just too quick for me,” Leclerc said.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois disagrees with suggestions Barcelona should be crowned LaLiga champions if the season is unfinished.

Barcelona were two points clear of Madrid with 11 games remaining when the campaign was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Quique Setien, the head coach of Barca, wants to finish the season, but believes it would be logical that his team were given the title if it was incomplete.

However, Courtois disagreed and said there was too long to go to crown a champion.

"They tied once against us, and lost once, so we showed them that we are a better team, but we're still two points behind," he told Belgian TV.

"So I don't really agree with that. In England, I could understand if Liverpool become champions. I don't know how many points they are ahead. Then I can understand that they make them the champion. What do you do with those that are supposed to go up and down? I think the economy, the TV money plays a big role in that. It's difficult.

"I'd like to finish the season. I think a championship is based on all the matches that have to be played.

"It's 11 games too early to decide on a champion. If we have to choose a champion before we're done, then I find it's better not to award a champion."

Ligue 1 crowned Paris Saint-Germain – who were 12 points clear – champions when they cancelled their season, while Eredivisie opted against giving a title.

Courtois said Madrid still had hope of winning the title, with their last league crown coming in 2016-17.

"We are two points behind Barcelona, so it's still possible we can be champion. So it's unfortunate if the season is cancelled," he said.

"For example, in France there were two teams that dropped, they maybe could have saved themselves, they won't like that. In Holland, no team will be champion, no team is rising or falling, it's unfortunate for guys from the second class who couldn't rise up.

"So if they decide this morning to stop the competition and Barcelona is named champion, I also wouldn't find that completely right."

Charles Leclerc claimed a second straight victory in Formula One's Virtual Grand Prix series on Sunday, despite Thibaut Courtois tactically blocking him for Red Bull.

After coming first in the previous race around the Albert Park circuit, pole-sitter Leclerc took the chequered flag for FDA Hublot Esports Team in the Chinese Virtual Grand Prix in impressive fashion.

Alexander Albon was unable to find a way past the Monegasque and had to settle for second after 28 laps, with Renault's Guanyu Zhou rounding out the top three.

Real Madrid star Courtois may have finished in 16th but he proved to be a great team-mate when, on lap nine, he let Albon past him but refused to allow Leclerc to follow.

Albon said of Courtois: "He's so fast. Thibaut's been driving with us quite a bit in practice sessions and when I first started testing he was quicker than me and I was getting worried about my job.

"He even did team tactics. He held up Charles for a couple of corners, so it was good fun!"

Real Madrid could be without Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo for the second leg of their Champions League tie with Manchester City.

The Spanish club revealed on Tuesday that goalkeeper Courtois has an injury to his left adductor muscle, while left-back Marcelo is dealing with a left hamstring issue.

Madrid - who host Eibar on Friday before the trip to the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday - offered no indication as to how long the duo will be out.

Both played in Sunday's 2-1 LaLiga defeat away to Real Betis, though Marcelo was replaced by Ferland Mendy before the hour mark.

Zinedine Zidane's side have won just once in their last five outings in all competitions. 

They took the lead against last-16 opponents City at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26, Vinicius Junior opening the scoring after 60 minutes.

However, Gabriel Jesus equalised before a Kevin De Bruyne penalty sealed a crucial away victory for Pep Guardiola's side.

Thibaut Courtois believes Real Madrid's decision to press Barcelona as they played out from the back paid off in El Clasico.

In his 50th LaLiga game as a Madrid player, goalkeeper Courtois made key first-half saves from Arthur and Lionel Messi.

That set the platform for second-half goals from Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz as Zinedine Zidane's men claimed a 2-0 home win on Sunday that put them top of LaLiga.

Courtois felt Madrid's tactics made the difference and was glad to have stepped up when it mattered with important stops before the break.

"Against Barcelona you can play in two ways: get into the area and defend or press and risk as they play out," he said to the club's official website.

"We did the latter very well and winning a Clasico is always good. 

"At 0-0 in the first half it was important not to concede any goals. When it was my turn I made good saves, like against Arthur and Messi. 

"Then in the second half we were better and made the difference."

Courtois felt Madrid had been playing well despite their recent defeats to Levante and Manchester City.

Now ahead of Barca by a solitary point, he has urged his team-mates not to take their foot off the gas ahead of the away match with Real Betis on March 8.

The Belgium international added: "We are ahead but we can't forget that there are 12 games left. 

"Next we visit Betis and if we want to win LaLiga we have to win there too.

"After our last results we have continued to work well. I think we played better in those games but we didn't win.

"Football is about small details and this time we got the win with the help of our fans. That is key and they have been incredible."

Eden Hazard made his return from a three-month injury lay-off in Real Madrid's 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, with Thibaut Courtois confident the forward will be key for Zinedine Zidane's side.

An ankle injury sidelined Hazard in late November, but he made his comeback on Sunday, winning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Madrid 2-1 up in the second half.

Madrid's run of five straight LaLiga wins was ended by Santi Mina's 85th-minute leveller, though, to ensure they only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona at the top of the table.

However, the return of Hazard, who has scored just once in nine league games since joining from Chelsea ahead of this season, was seen as an encouraging development for his compatriot Courtois.

"Little by little he will catch up again after three months," Courtois, who also played alongside Hazard at Stamford Bridge, told Movistar.

"He is a player that is worth a lot to us."

Madrid surprisingly fell behind against Celta after Fedor Smolov scored his first goal for the club in the seventh minute.

The home side failed to muster a shot on target across the opening 45 minutes, but Toni Kroos' sixth goal against Celta – he only has 14 overall in LaLiga - levelled matters and Hazard then won a penalty that Ramos scored.

Yet more poor defending allowed substitute Denis Suarez to find fellow replacement Mina as Celta dramatically claimed a share of the spoils.

Asked about his emotions, Courtois replied: "Angry because we conceded a [second] goal.

"It was a difficult game because they started by scoring a goal early on. They defended well with 11 men and then I made a good save to keep the score at 0-1.

"Then in the second half, we scored two fast goals but in the end we've lost two points that are worth a lot at home.

"We defended well but Denis made a good turn and made space for Santi Mina, who put the ball away well.

"It's two points lost and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth."

Diego Simeone appeared to have perfected a defence-first approach at Atletico Madrid.

However, Zinedine Zidane's work with Real Madrid this season has seemingly been based on the same philosophy and is reaping far greater rewards.

LaLiga leaders Madrid will hope to open a six-point lead over Barcelona when they entertain local rivals Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

With the help of Opta, we look at the impressive numbers behind Los Blancos' miserly defence.

 

A sluggish start

It was not an ideal start for Zidane when he returned for a second stint as coach last March.

A 4-1 win over Real Valladolid was not enough for Santiago Solari to keep his job following back-to-back home defeats to Barcelona and a shock Champions League last-16 exit to Ajax.

Zidane struggled to find consistency in the closing stages of the season and only managed five wins in his 11 LaLiga games at the helm.

During that time frame, Madrid appeared to increasingly struggle defensively. They saw their average goals conceded per game rise from 1.19 to 1.27 and they faced 0.5 more shots per game (up to 4.09 from 3.59).

 

Tightening up

Madrid kept just three clean sheets under Zidane last season, but they are already up to 11 in 21 LaLiga games this term. That is one more than Atletico.

Having let in 14 goals as Zidane saw out the end of the 2018-19 campaign, they have improved dramatically with just 13 put past them this term – the fewest of any teams in the top five European leagues and their best record after 21 matches since 1988.

Madrid's expected goals conceded is 19.75, meaning they have let in 6.75 fewer than anticipated, highlighting some good work from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The only teams in LaLiga with a better differential this season are Real Valladolid (-10.11) and Levante (-7.44), but they conceded more than Madrid at 24 and 32 respectively.

Greater defensive work has seen the number of shots Madrid are facing decrease from 9.91 per game under Zidane last term – and 10.24 across the whole campaign – to 8.48, a tally only Getafe (7.57) and Manchester City (7.63) have faced fewer than in the top five European leagues.

When only efforts that hit the target are taken into account, Madrid have been troubled by just 2.62 every 90 minutes this season – the lowest in the continent's leading divisions. Atletico face just 2.86 per match.

 

Attack as a form of defence?

Madrid have seen their average possession dip slightly since Zidane took over, but it has remained at just above 58 per cent under the Frenchman.

They are seemingly reaping the rewards of playing with greater intensity higher up the pitch – they have won possession in the final third 5.38 times per game this season, an increase from 4.09 in Zidane's first 11 games in charge.

Madrid are averaging more shots than any team in LaLiga at 17.89 per game, with 6.43 of those hitting the target – another league high.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez described head coach Zinedine Zidane as a "blessing from heaven" after his latest final triumph.

Zidane has won each of his finals as Madrid coach, taking his tally of successes to nine with a tense victory against Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana on Sunday.

Madrid won 4-1 on penalties after a goalless draw, scraping to a shoot-out after Federico Valverde was sent off for a cynical foul on a goalbound Alvaro Morata late in extra time.

This was the first title of Zidane's second stint as Madrid boss - the first returning three straight Champions League wins - but Perez is confident the Frenchman is ready to deliver further success.

"[Zidane] has plenty of trophies and we're very happy for him," Perez said, as reported by Marca. "I hope that he wins more trophies.

"Zidane has a loving relationship with Real Madrid. He decided to rest for a year and now he's returned with renewed energy. Zidane is a blessing from heaven."

Perez felt the triumph at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah was particularly impressive given the absence of a number of key men, including Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

"We came here without some great players like Hazard, Benzema and Bale," he said. "Zidane has been able to put together a team and we won the trophy.

"I think that we're on the path to finding ourselves again after a little dip. New people have come in who have given the team intensity and we're on a good path."

But Perez reserved some praise for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who saved from Thomas Partey in the shoot-out.

"We brought [Courtois] here because we believe that he's the best goalkeeper in the world, and he has been," Perez said. "He was one of the key players in the victory."

Thibaut Courtois revealed a late review of Atletico Madrid's penalties helped him step up for Real Madrid in their Supercopa de Espana victory on Sunday.

Madrid claimed the trophy for an 11th time thanks to a 4-1 penalty shootout win after the derby clash finished locked at 0-0 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Saul Niguez hit the post for Atletico in the shootout before Courtois denied Thomas Partey, continuing his improved form for the LaLiga giants.

Courtois said he was always confident of saving Thomas' penalty, while he was happy with another clean sheet.

"I reviewed the penalties on the bench," the goalkeeper said, via AS.

"Saul surprised me a little, but Thomas I knew clearly. He shot it very hard and very strong.

"I am very happy for another zero goals conceded and with good stops. This is very important."

Madrid were reduced to 10 men late in extra time when Federico Valverde cynically brought down Alvaro Morata, who was through on goal.

Courtois praised his team, who host Sevilla in LaLiga on Saturday, for making the most of Valverde's tackle.

"We are very happy. It was a hard-fought match against Atletico. Their style of play is waiting for an error from the other team," he said.

"They could have taken advantage of that a few times. I managed to save some, Fede stopped one.

"I think I could stop Alvaro by coming out, but he got away and Fede made the tackle. We took advantage of that well and we were the more confident team in the penalty shootout."

Zinedine Zidane believes Raphael Varane's brace in the 3-0 win at Getafe showed how Real Madrid do not only have to rely on their forwards to score goals.

Los Blancos returned to duty having scored just once in their previous three LaLiga matches, but France international Varane netted either side of half-time to put them firmly in control against Jose Bordalas' men.

Luka Modric added a third deep into additional time to wrap up Madrid's biggest league win since November 9, and Zidane said his side's patience had paid off in the derby fixture.

"I already said that you have to be calm in front of goal," the Madrid coach told reporters.

"You have to be calm because sometimes the ball does not fit. And with goals today from Varane, it shows that we have many resources to score.

"For us, it is important to win here because it is a very complicated league. The boys have been plugged in since minute one with great intensity."

Zidane also paid tribute to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who kept his third consecutive clean sheet to help his side go top of the table, albeit with previous leaders Barcelona playing later on Saturday.

The Belgium international was unbeatable in goalless draws with Barca and Athletic Bilbao prior to the mid-season break, leading to Zidane underlining the importance of his performances.

"I am happy for him and sure he is happy with his work," Zidane said of Courtois. "We are happy for him and he is for us.

"We have suffered in some games and Courtois has been very good. We have played as a team, which is the most important in these games and against these teams.

"We achieved a good result as a team, thanks to everyone’s efforts."

Thibaut Courtois insisted there was never any internal strain on his relationship with Keylor Navas, though he acknowledged there is now much less focus on the Real Madrid goalkeeping situation following the latter's move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Navas completed a switch to PSG in September, with Alphonse Areola moving in the opposite direction to Madrid on loan.

Last season, both Courtois and Navas competed for the number one spot at Madrid, with the media and fans often debating over which one should be named as number one choice.

Now, those debates have been settled, with France goalkeeper Areola acting as Courtois' understudy, but the former Chelsea shot-stopper affirmed there were no issues between himself and Navas.

"In the end it is like in life. With some you have better relationships and you talk more," Courtois told MARCA.

"He was a partner and there was always a good I try to help them both. The fact that it is no longer helped me.

"I think it is more that there is no longer that debate from outside, because from inside we were two goalkeepers that we trained well competing, as now with Areola who is a great goalkeeper.

"Then the requirement for me, day by day, has not changed. But there seems to be less debate outside."

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said Sunday's goalless LaLiga draw with Athletic Bilbao left a "bad taste".

Madrid hit the woodwork three times at the Santiago Bernabeu as Los Blancos ended the round two points adrift of leaders and defending champions Barcelona.

It was another toothless display as Madrid failed to score in back-to-back LaLiga games – Toni Kroos and Nacho hitting the crossbar either side of half-time before substitute Luka Jovic was denied by the base of the post with four minutes remaining.

Reflecting on the result, Courtois said: "It leaves us with a bad taste because we had two very intense matches [before playing Athletic].

"We struggled to get into the game at the start and then we didn't have luck on our side. We hit the woodwork three times and then the goalkeeper [Unai Simon] also deserves credit.

"Athletic try to frustrate you and the referee followed their game. They are two points lost, but we have to keep going."

"We have ended 2019 well in LaLiga," Courtois added. "At home we've dropped some points against some teams, and you come away disappointed, but overall we only lost one game and now we have to keep going.

"The team are doing well, playing well, and creating chances. It is just a shame that in the last three games we could not get the goals we needed. Karim [Benzema] is doing so well for us, he has been involved in so many goals this season."

 

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