On-loan Chelsea star unfazed by Champions League draw

Thibaut Courtois has no intentions of allowing AC Milan’s tradition to overcome Atletico Madrid’s ambitions.

The Colchoneros have been drawn alongside the seven-time European champions for the Champions League round of 16, to which the Spanish capital outfit progressed in cracking fashion even after the blockbuster sale of Radamel Falcao.

Courtois has continued to convert promise into results between the pipes in his third season on loan at the Vicente Calderon from Chelsea, where he’s found his path to first team football blocked by the talismanic figure of Petr Cech.

And with plenty of success to be had with Atletico as the club sit level atop La Liga with Barcelona on the domestic front, the Belgium international remains focused on taking the fight to northern Italy even as he continues to be linked with top clubs spanning the whole of Europe.

“We are a very competitive side,” he told AS. “We hope to continue on this path until the end.

“We are pleased with out performance in the league and the Champions League, and will continue to face the campaign one hurdle at a time.”

Atletico were able to avoid stiff competition from the Premier League in potential opponents Manchester City and Arsenal in the draw on Monday, instead facing a Milan side that sit 11th on the Serie A table that limped through to the knockouts with a 10-man scoreless draw against Ajax at San Siro.

Nonetheless, the Copa del Rey holders remain wary of the Rossoneri’s pedigree in continental competition, even if midfielder Raul Garcia is well informed of the Italian giants’ struggles at present.

“Milan are a team with history, it will be nice to play them,” Garcia told UEFA’s official website.

“We’re really looking forward to beating a club like Milan. We have to continue to stay true to our football philosophy – if we do that, we'll certainly have a good contest.

“There are two months until the tie, so we have time to see how both teams shape up. In a few weeks we'll talk about how each team is looking.

“Milan are finding it difficult to implement a style, something other teams seem to have at the moment. We've still no doubt that they have great players and can hurt you at any time.”

Atletico Madrid director Clemente Villaverde also chimed in on the subject, urging that the draw is no matter to take lightly.

“This isn't just any team, it's AC Milan," he added. "They have an incredible history.

"We must look to be better than them and to do everything possible in order to beat them. We respect every team here but we also have potential and will use our strengths.”

For Courtois, it represents another moment in which to send the message to Stamford Bridge that he is the future in goal, even if he’s done plenty abroad since his July 2011 move from Genk to suggest that when it is time for Cech to step away, he’s ready for the job.

Recently the Daily Mail maintained that negotiations were ongoing with London-based parent club in view of a new contract that would tie him to the Blues until 2019, though suitors such as Real Madrid and Barcelona continue to circle as it’s been suggested he requires assurances on his future in England.

Yet for now, what’s certain is that Courtois is primed to make the leap to the next level and test the waters of the Champions League’s latter stages against an illustrious, yet wounded, opponent.

image: © azuaje

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for CHELSEA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch