Courtois: Maintaining the right mentality

Thibaut Courtois believes the squad’s focus has been excellent in our past two games and he says we must continue in that vain tomorrow night if we are to get the win that would guarantee our progression to the Champions League knockout stages.

Our last European away game, in Rome, did not go well, but the Blues have bounced back since with a pair of excellent results, and two clean sheets for Courtois to enjoy too.

Speaking on the eve of our next challenge, in the depths of the Olympic Stadium in Baku where we will take on Qarabag, the goalkeeper noted differences for both teams since we met in September, starting with Chelsea following the defeat in Italy.

‘I think the biggest change was maybe like last season against Arsenal when we lost 3-0 as well,’ Courtois said.

‘Maybe we were never fighting inside the game, or our mentality was not on point. We learned again in Rome we have to do it every game and maybe this year not 100 per cent, but 110 or 120 per cent to win those games.

‘Against Manchester United we showed if we have the mentality on point, and we play well, we win, and we win with good football. Against West Brom we had the same focus and will to do those extra metres. We have to continue doing that. I hope Rome was a learning point for everyone, and we continue having this focus throughout the season.’

Courtois then cast his mind back to our 6-0 victory against Qarabag and their subsequent, more impressive results in Europe.

‘The first game was their first in the Champions League. If you go to Chelsea, the champions, and maybe they were a bit [in awe]. We played a very good game as well, but I remember the first half was difficult for us.

‘After that they gave Roma a really tough game here, they drew twice against Atletico, so we know we face a difficult game.

‘They have changed a bit their tactics, they defend better, they have good strikers, and they are fast on the counter. I think they will give us the ball and try to make us make a mistake.

‘We are the favourites to win,' added Courtois. 'Our objective is to qualify tomorrow, so that means we have to win. For us it’s important to start very strong, to try to score early to put the pressure on them, and then hopefully we can have a good game and take the three points back to London.’

The Belgian reported the players are staying on English time here, which is four hours behind local time, and that will serve them well not only tomorrow, but also at the weekend when we travel to Anfield. He added he had a ‘good siesta’ on the long flight over and is feeling fresh, as was everyone at today’s training session at the Bakcell Arena, a smaller venue than the one we will play in tomorrow.  

 Courtois in training earlier today

It is not Courtois’ first visit to this south-eastern corner of Europe, and he had a message for the local journalists who asked him to recall his previous trip. 

‘I want to say hello to everyone in Azerbaijan. I remember I came here with Atletico four years ago. We were here for a few days; we saw the nice culture here in Baku.

‘Everything was very good, the people were very friendly, a lot of fans of then Atletico, and now Chelsea as well, are on the street. For us as a team to see all the support we have here in Azerbaijan is really nice.

‘I am really happy to be here, and hopefully we can have a good game for everybody, and everybody can enjoy the game.’