"There is no margin for error." Thibaut Courtois on the pressure of being Real Madrid No1 and the changing role of a keeper.
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Can we start by talking about what it's like being a goalkeeper – particularly the pressure of being a keeper at Real Madrid?
In every team – and this goes for Atleti and Chelsea too – there is always pressure as the goalkeeper is always the last one trying to stop a goal. There is obviously no margin for error.
Whenever a goalkeeper makes a mistake, it almost always ends up in a goal, so there is always pressure. There's pressure here at Madrid, but I don't think that changes whichever club you're playing for.
Madrid are normally in the opposition half, have a lot of the ball and create lots of chances. How do you stay focused for the three or four times you're called into action?
You have to focus at all times. When we're attacking, it is very important to be alert, to play behind the defensive line; if it's a high defensive line then you need to get further upfield.
You need to play in the space and stop those balls getting through; for example against Roma [in the group stage], I had to come out of the area two or three times to stop the counter. That's when you need to be alert and that's why you always need to be concentrating.
The role of the goalkeeper has changed during the course of your career – now they are expected to have strong technique and be good on the ball. How do you see this development?
Over the last ten years, a lot more has been asked of goalkeepers – to be good with your feet, play in the space – when maybe it was not like this 20 years ago. Even so, when I played at Genk as a child, they asked you to play with your feet from a very young age.
It also depends on the team you play for, whether they're only looking to play long balls or to play out from the back. Being a goalkeeper nowadays is much more than making saves on the line – it's also about playing into space, playing with your feet, and reducing the distance between yourself and the defence. It's a little of everything.
How do you tend to prepare for Champions League matches? Is there a routine where you look at how players shoot, for example?
It's the same for every match: I watch videos of the team's attacking routines, I watch the penalties, I look at the mistakes, I see how the strikers finish. That doesn't change, whether it's the Champions League, the Liga, or a cup tie.
Now that the game is approaching, what are your thoughts on this tie against Ajax?
They have a good team with a mix of experience and young talent and I think they play good football. They will come and play open. They won't defend; that's their style, they play football.