Thibaut Courtois believes the shock of losing on the opening day of the season against Burnley served as a wake-up call for Chelsea in their bid to defend the Premier League title, and the champions duly proved their pedigree with victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
The win at Wembley has eased fears of a repeat of Chelsea’s last title defence which unravelled so spectacularly under José Mourinho in 2015. Antonio Conte, while still frustrated at a lack of progress in player recruitment, hailed his side’s spirit and character both in the second half against Burnley – when the hosts recovered to lose 3-2 despite being reduced to nine men – and with a depleted lineup against Spurs.
“What happened last week didn’t show it would be the same [as two years ago],” Courtois said. “We just started badly against Burnley. Maybe we needed as a group a little wake-up call to say: ‘Look, we need to give 150% this year and not 100%.’ That’s what we gave against Tottenham and I think we did very well. You see that in the end we can win those difficult games.
“I remember two years ago we had to go to Manchester City and lost there, and it was a difficult start for us. Now this victory is good. Next we play at home against Everton, who are doing well. We don’t have the easiest start but this victory is good for the confidence, to continue the hard work we are doing in training.
“We worked very hard in pre-season and it was just a bit unfortunate that we had suspended and injured players, and some other players left, when the season began, so it’s not easy for us. Sunday’s victory was good to show as a team we are working very well and in the next weeks we can continue in this way. We know the work pays off.
“The Premier League is one long marathon, not a sprint of one or two months. Let’s see, game by game, and then in May hopefully we are there to win the league. If not, we will try to be as close as possible.”
Chelsea are attempting to recruit at least three players over what remains of the window, with interest maintained in Danny Drinkwater at Leicester City, Everton’s Ross Barkley, the Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Virgil van Dijk of Southampton and Antonio Candreva of Internazionale.
“We will try to work hard and maybe, after the international break, we’ll know what is our full squad,” Courtois said. “Perhaps we can build on that, play an amazing year and win trophies by the end of the season.”
Courtois said Tottenham had put a microphone on a drum being banged by the home fans during the first half and was unimpressed at the attempts to manufacture an atmosphere. “Playing here did feel different. If they make more noise it would be better for them but, in the first half, if you have to put some noise over the speakers to make some atmosphere I don’t think it is working very well,” he said.
“In the second half they were pressing and 70,000 people started to wake up – there is obviously more than the 40,000 at White Hart Lane. The only difference is they are more separate from the pitch than at White Hart Lane when you feel more pressure when they are pressing and the pitch is smaller, that is probably better for them.
“I think it is a little advantage we can have mentally over them because we won here in the FA Cup semi-final against them as well, so that is good.”
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