Thibaut Courtois kept believing as Real Madrid battled back against Manchester City, having already seen the 13-time European champions prove they are "capable of anything".

On Wednesday, Madrid became the first team in the existing format of the Champions League to reach the final having lost matches in the last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals.

City had been 4-3 winners at the Etihad Stadium in the first leg and looked on course for another victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Less than a minute remained with the scoreline still at 1-0 following Riyad Mahrez's seemingly vital goal.

But Rodrygo Goes then netted twice in the space of 91 seconds to take the tie to extra time, where Karim Benzema's penalty sealed a sensational triumph.

Courtois played his part, with one stunning stop from Jack Grealish prior to Rodrygo's first goal counted among eight saves.

Only two goalkeepers – Manuel Neuer against Manchester United in 2010-11 and Jan Oblak versus Bayern Munich in 2015-16 (both nine) – have previously made more saves in a single Champions League semi-final match.

And Courtois said afterwards: "This team and this club are capable of anything. We kept believing until the end, and ultimately we made it possible.

"We knew we were in better shape going into extra time; it was a case of digging in and defending well, which is what we did.

"We weren't great in front of goal – we were missing the final pass, and sometimes it feels like it won't go for you – but with the goal and the fans behind us, we knew anything could happen."

Madrid will face Liverpool in what will be a record-extending 17th European Cup or Champions League final appearance.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could not help but twist the knife after Los Blancos secured their 35th LaLiga title on Saturday.

Following their 4-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, giving them an unassailable lead with four games to spare, Courtois had a response to a claim from Dani Alves.

With Barcelona's recent win over Real Sociedad, and March's 4-0 victory over the newly-crowned champions in mind, Alves had joked that Madrid were fortunate the Blaugrana let them open up such a huge margin.

After clinching the league, Courtois engaged in some tit-for-tat while praising Madrid's maturity and togetherness in seeing the title race through.

"After the Clasico was key," he said. "Some people celebrated as if they had won the title, that they were back.

"But we kept calm to beat Celta in a difficult game, and Getafe, which is always difficult for us.

"This is the work of the whole team," Courtois said. "We all attack and defend."

With Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City looming, it will have been a relief to head coach Carlo Ancelotti that Saturday's contest became a relatively routine victory, and the Los Blancos boss was able to stagger the minutes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Vinicius Jr.

Courtois noted despite the result that Espanyol did not make it easy on his side.

"We had to finish it off today," Courtois said. "Everything was ready, also for our friends, family, fans.

"We knew we couldn't slip. Espanyol gave us a very tough game at the beginning, but we were calm and after the first goal, everything was easier."

 

Carlo Ancelotti outlined his desire to win more trophies with Real Madrid after Los Blancos secured the LaLiga title with 4-0 victory over Espanyol.

A first-half Rodrygo double set Ancelotti's men on their way before strikes from Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema finished off the job in style at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Madrid claimed their 35th Spanish top-flight crown with four games to spare, their earliest title since the 1989-99 campaign.

Ancelotti became the first coach to win each of Europe's top five leagues and the Italian is hungry for further success in the Champions League, with Madrid 4-3 down in the semi-final heading into the second leg at home to Manchester City on Wednesday.

"A lot of emotion, we have met a challenge," he said on the pitch after Madrid sealed the title.

"The season has been spectacular. Lots of consistency. I have to thank the players for their work and their attitude. 

"Today we have to celebrate, not talk. I want to celebrate. It fills me with pride to win in the five major leagues. I can say that I like what I do. It means I've done pretty well. 

"I'm proud. I want to continue winning titles with Real Madrid. See you on Wednesday. I tell the fans on Wednesday we need this atmosphere."

Madrid captain Marcelo also expressed his pride as he dedicated the triumph to the Los Blancos faithful.

"An immense joy," the veteran full-back said. "We have won it as soon as possible and that is everyone's job. Very happy and we need to keep adding. It is the fruit of work, joy, sacrifice and many things. 

"That's why we've won before. Celebrating it with the fans is the best. Before we couldn't but today we can. The party is theirs. 

"It is the greatest joy, celebrating at the home of the best club in the world. Today we have to celebrate. We have an important game ahead, but nothing happens to celebrate well."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois echoed his skipper Marcelo's sentiments.

"It is incredible to win the league with so many games remaining," the Belgium international said. "We made a great effort this year and we are very happy. 

"We have had a very important consistency in key games, but above all how we got through the difficult games we had after the Clasico [a 4-0 defeat at home to Barcelona]. 

"We beat Celta and Sevilla at their stadium, Getafe here at the Santiago Bernabeu... Many thanks to the fans for everything. Today the atmosphere was great. 

"We really wanted to celebrate it, because two years ago we couldn't celebrate it with the fans due to the pandemic. Go Madrid!"

Real Madrid are LaLiga champions for the second time in three seasons – and a 35th time overall – after beating Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday to clinch top spot.

Los Blancos have led the way pretty much throughout a campaign that has seen erstwhile champions Atletico Madrid and a Lionel Messi-less Barcelona struggle for consistency.

Indeed, Sevilla proved Los Blancos' biggest threat for large parts of this season, but Carlo Ancelotti's men never truly looked in danger of relinquishing their grip on another title.

Madrid's latest triumph came in Ancelotti's first season back at the club, with the Italian becoming the first head coach to win each of Europe's top five leagues.

While Ancelotti deserves plenty of credit, the title stroll would not have been possible if not for Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois at opposite ends of the pitch.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind Madrid's latest title romp, which they could still yet add to with the Champions League in the coming weeks.

 

Madrid masterclass

Not only have Madrid won more European Cups than any side, their 35th LaLiga crown sees them overtake Juventus for the most titles among the top five European leagues.

Their two titles in three seasons, with the other coming under Zinedine Zidane in 2019-10, is as many as they won in the previous 11 campaigns.

Ancelotti's men have done so in style, too, having clinched top spot with four matchdays left, surpassing 2007-08 (three matchdays) for their earliest title win this century.

 

Carlo completes the set

Ancelotti won five trophies during his previous spell in charge of Madrid but the LaLiga title eluded him.

However, the 62-year-old can now lay claim to having won the title in Italy, England, France, Germany and indeed Spain – the first head coach to have ever achieved a sweep.

He is also the oldest coach to have won the Spanish top flight, some two years more senior than Fabio Capello was when also tasting success with Madrid in 2006-07.

Incidentally, Ancelotti and Capello are the only two Italian coaches to have reigned in Spain, with the latter having done so twice.

 

Karim the Dream

Benzema has led the way for Madrid with this his fourth LaLiga conquest, adding to the titles won in 2012, 2017 and 2020.

The France international has scored 26 goals in 30 league games this season, making this his most prolific campaign across his 13 years in Spain's top flight.

Not only does Benzema lead the LaLiga scoring charts, his 11 assists are also level with Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele as the most in the division.

Just to further underline the striker's importance this season, with 37 direct goal involvements he has played a part in 51 per cent of Los Blancos' 73 league goals.

Courtois a calming presence

For all of Benzema's goals, Madrid have so often called upon goalkeeper Courtois to rescue them this campaign.

The former Chelsea stopper has conceded 29 goals across 34 matches, keeping 14 clean sheets in the process.

Real Sociedad's Alex Remiro (18) can hold claim to keeping more shutouts, but a separate metric shows just how good Courtois has been in 2021-22.

The 29 goals Courtois has conceded have come from 33.4 expected goals on target conceded, meaning he has prevented 4.4 goals based on the quality of his shot-stopping.

To put that in some perspective, no goalkeeper in LaLiga has prevented more goals this season, while only five others across Europe's top five leagues have prevented more.

Benzema and Vinicius Junior may get most of the plaudits, but Courtois' influence has undoubtedly been significant.

 

Karim Benzema is playing "the season of his life" as Real Madrid team-mates queued up to praise the inspirational captain after his latest Champions League hat-trick.

French frontman Benzema hit all three of his side's goals in their 3-1 victory at Chelsea on Wednesday, the first leg of a quarter-final tie over which Madrid now have firm control.

That performance in London saw Benzema advance to 37 goals and 13 assists in 36 games this season. His goal involvements total of 50 puts him top of all players from Europe's top five leagues, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski second on the list with 49 involvements (45 goals, four assists).

Ten of those goals from Benzema have come in his past four games, with Champions League hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea sandwiching LaLiga doubles against Real Mallorca and Celta Vigo.

When he was absent against Barcelona due to injury, Madrid looked lost without their talisman and were thumped 4-0 in El Clasico.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel sounded a despondent note after the game, warning of the danger of his team being destroyed in next week's second leg if they deliver another lacklustre display.

But Madrid were delighted with the outcome, with star defender David Alaba raving about the 34-year-old Benzema's match-winning turn.

"What he's doing this season is incredible," Alaba said after the game. "I can see how hard he works, and he's having the season of his life, he's very focused and is hungry to score goals. He prepares very well for every game, particularly matches like tonight's. I'm delighted to have him as a team-mate."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois spoke of Madrid's "important result" and pinpointed the hat-trick hero, saying: "To go far in the Champions League you need a player like Benzema."

The win at Stamford Bridge will have resonated around Europe, with LaLiga leaders Madrid chasing a 14th European Cup/Champions League triumph this season.

Two early headers from Benzema put Madrid in firm control, before he spurned the chance of a first-half hat-trick when firing wide shortly before the break.

The veteran former Lyon man made up for that miss when he seized on a shocking pass from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to fire in Madrid's third in the first minute of the second half.

Brazilian midfielder Casemiro said it was important to acknowledge Benzema is going through a special phase in his career.

"Firstly, we've got to talk about Karim’s magic," said Casemiro, quoted on Madrid's official website.

"We simply have to continue to enjoy the player that he is, we appreciate his quality and the player that he is, but many people only see his goals and we see his quality, the type of person he is, and it's extremely important for us that we continue to enjoy having him.

"It was a whole team effort, in terms of the effort, reading the game, knowing how to play, and I think that we understood the game well."

Thibaut Courtois defended Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy after his error gave Real Madrid a two-goal lead in their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Chelsea had rallied after Karim Benzema's sensational quickfire double put Madrid 2-0 up at Stamford Bridge, with Kai Havertz responding shortly before half-time.

But the Blues' hard work was undone almost immediately after the interval, as Mendy's slack pass to Antonio Rudiger invited a challenge from Benzema, who was then able to fire into an open goal to complete his hat-trick.

It was Mendy's first error leading to a goal in the Champions League and only his third across all competitions in two seasons since joining Chelsea.

Although Chelsea had 57.3 per cent of the possession and 20 shots to Madrid's eight, the home side could not hit back again and now face a huge uphill task in the second leg in Spain.

Mendy at least had the sympathy of former Chelsea man Courtois, his opposite number in the Madrid goal.

"The problem if you make a bad pass as a goalkeeper is that there's no one behind, they steal the ball and score," Courtois said.

"He shouldn't be blamed, but a mistake by a goalkeeper is talked about a lot."

As much as 37.5 per cent of the game was played in Madrid's third of the pitch, but Chelsea created chances worth just 1.35 expected goals, even if Courtois would have been more comfortable with the visitors playing further upfield.

"We defended well," he said. "Maybe at times we were too deep and they took advantage of that to create chances. We have to improve on that and move the defensive line a bit higher up.

"We have to make sure we play well in the return leg."

Courtois should find a more supportive crowd in that return leg, having been jeered by the Chelsea fans on Wednesday in his first match back at Stamford Bridge in front of supporters.

The Belgium keeper left Chelsea for Madrid in a €35million transfer in 2018.

"Obviously it's a Champions League game, it's not a friendly," he said of the response.

"I didn't like how my departure from the club was explained, but I think I had really good moments at Stamford Bridge and I've got very fond memories of my time at Chelsea."

Thibaut Courtois does not anticipate Carlo Ancelotti's expected absence to be a problem for Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Ancelotti tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and was absent for Los Blancos' 2-1 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

He is anticipated to be unavailable again when Madrid face his and Courtois' former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. 

As of Tuesday, Ancelotti was still testing positive - preventing him from making the trip to London - though the Italian could travel if he returns a negative test on Wednesday.

Speaking about playing without Ancelotti's guidance, Courtois told a media conference: "Luckily, his assistant is his son, so it's quite similar!

"But, there's a complete and good staff there, and it has been possible to have a video call with him.

"As for his absence from the dugout, I think the coaching staff did very well in Vigo and I don't think it'll be much of a problem here."

Chelsea knocked out Madrid in the semi-final stage en route to lifting the trophy last season.

The Blues won the return leg at Stamford Bridge 2-0 to claim a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

However, with the second leg this time around taking place at Santiago Bernabeu, Courtois is hopeful of Madrid producing a different result provided they can head back to the Spanish capital still alive in the tie.

Madrid produced a stunning turnaround at the Bernabeu to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16; Karim Benzema scoring three times in 17 minutes to give them a 3-1 win on the night and a 3-2 aggregate victory.

"It's a new season," Courtois added. "Last season was different since it was semi-finals and later in the season, there were no fans then, and it was the second leg that we played away.

"We saw in the last round how we pulled off a comeback at the Bernabeu. We want to bring this tie back to the Bernabeu, too.

"The [scrapping of the] away goal rule changes it a little. We saw that in the last round when the 2-1 turnaround had already earned us at least extra time, even though we won 3-1 anyway.

"Before, we'd have known that we needed three goals. I think that's a good rule change."

Thibaut Courtois said "the adventure continues" as he spoke about his desire to win the Champions League with Real Madrid ahead of a reunion with former club Chelsea.

Los Blancos travel to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday, a repeat of last year's semi-final, which Thomas Tuchel's side won 3-1 on aggregate before eventually lifting the trophy.

Despite winning numerous honours throughout his career, it is a competition Courtois has never gone all the way in and the Belgian stopper is aiming to do something about that this season.

Speaking to Madrid's official website ahead of the first-leg clash in London, Courtois said: "I've won many trophies, but the Champions League is the biggest in club football and I haven't won it yet.

"It would obviously be very special for me to win it before I retire. I've still got time. I'll keep on trying to follow my dreams and the Champions League is one of them. The adventure continues."

 

The 29-year-old was a runner-up in the 2014 Champions League final while playing for Atletico Madrid, coincidentally losing to his current team in Lisbon.

Courtois also made 154 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea before moving to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, and is hoping he gets a welcoming reception.

"I hope it's a happy return to Stamford Bridge," he said. "We're now rivals. They'll want to win and the same goes for me too and so I'm not expecting any applause from the fans. I hope that they don't boo me, but you never know.

"I’m prepared for whatever comes and we'll have to see how it goes. I'm happy to be returning there with fans in the stands because last year when we played them the stadium was empty."

Thibaut Courtois expects his former club Chelsea to respond strongly when they meet Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals, despite their heavy defeat on Saturday.

The Blues were shockingly thrashed 4-1 at home by Brentford in the Premier League, while Madrid claimed a 2-1 win away at Celta Vigo in LaLiga.

Courtois made 154 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea before moving to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018.

Following Madrid's win over Celta, Courtois told reporters: "Today, winning is important. Chelsea lost at home and they will be very strong for Wednesday. We lack intensity sometimes and Chelsea are good at [exploiting] that."

Though Los Blancos were victorious, they enjoyed some fortune after being awarded three penalties by referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes. It was the first time Madrid took three spot-kicks in a single LaLiga game since Opta began recording such data in 2003-04.

Karim Benzema scored two and saw one saved, but it was enough for Madrid to extend their lead at the top to 12 points, and Courtois – who made a spectacular save from an Iago Aspas free-kick in the first half – acknowledged how tough the game had been.

"We have suffered here, all the games I have played here have been very tough," he said. "I don't know if we deserved to win because in the first half I made two saves.

"The three penalties are, there is nothing more to add. The first and the second, yes. Perhaps the third is the one that I see as more difficult from my goal, but if you put your foot in... Today, they call us three in favour, since it had been a long time since they called us three."

Aspas was less than convinced by the referee's performance, saying after the game: "He only needed to call a fourth penalty to take it himself. It seemed that a hat-trick from Benzema was what he wanted and what he was looking for."

The former Liverpool striker did have words of praise for Courtois, though, after the Belgian saved his free-kick as well as efforts from Denis Suarez and Thiago Galhardo, whose header he tipped into the post before it rolled in, only for the goal to be disallowed when an offside Aspas stopped David Alaba from clearing.

"He is the best goalkeeper in the world," Aspas added. "I already said it in the previous one and it seems that he listened to me."

Nolito did find a way past Courtois, but to no avail for Celta, who sit in 11th place.

Thibaut Courtois is relishing what he hopes will be a "special" return to Stamford Bridge when Real Madrid face Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Madrid recovered from two goals down on aggregate to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, while the Blues saw off reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille 4-1.

The sides were subsequently paired together in the last eight in a repeat of last year's semi-final, which Chelsea won 3-1 over two legs en route to lifting the trophy.

Courtois played in both matches, albeit with the home tie staged at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano and the away leg behind closed doors in London due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chelsea are set to play in front of a packed house for Madrid's latest visit next Wednesday, though, after sanctions that prevented them from selling tickets were amended.

Blues fans were not happy with the way Courtois departed, but the goalkeeper is focusing more on the two Premier League titles and two domestic cups he won with the club.

"It will be special," he said on his 'Thibaut Talks' podcast. "Last year we lost in the semis and hopefully this year there will be a victory. 

"This year it will be different because it will be with the public. It will be special and although there may be some whistles, I hope that people remember the beautiful moments. 

"We won two leagues, one FA Cup... For me, Chelsea is a special team that helped me to be the goalkeeper that I am now.

"They bought me when I was 18 years old and gave me the opportunity to be at Atletico, to play in the Premier League and win it. 

"It's an important team and I have many friends there. It's always a pleasure to face them again."

Should they go through, Chelsea will become the first English team to eliminate Madrid from the Champions League on multiple occasions.

Los Blancos have faced Chelsea more times without ever winning than they have against any other side in European competition (five), drawing twice and losing three times.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has said he and his team-mates "must live up to history" after suffering a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of rivals Barcelona in El Clasico.

Goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres condemned Madrid to a shock humbling at the Santiago Bernabeu, though they remain nine points clear at the top of LaLiga ahead of second-placed Sevilla.

Los Blancos head coach Carlo Ancelotti apologised after the game, saying: "It was not a good night, we are sorry for the fans, but we have to look forward. We have an advantage, we have to rest and come back."

On Monday, Courtois was also in a reflective mood, stopping short of apologising in a pair of Twitter posts, but insisting the players will bounce back from their first Clasico defeat in three years.

"Yesterday was a sad day, but we are a team," the Belgium international posted. "Whether we win or lose, we do it together and we will react in the same way.

"I know it's still painful to think about it and ask for it, but trust that this team will give everything to win the titles we have at stake.

"We are in the best position to do it and we are Real Madrid, we must live up to history and you Madridistas. Now more than ever #HalaMadrid".

Madrid are due to play Courtois' former club Chelsea in the quarter-final of the Champions League after a dramatic 3-2 aggregate win over Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16.

Thibaut Courtois tipped Karim Benzema to challenge for the Ballon d'Or following his star performance for Real Madrid against Paris Saint-Germain.

Benzema struck a hat-trick to secure a 3-1 second-leg win over PSG at the Santiago Bernabeu and send Madrid into the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

The Ligue 1 leaders held a 1-0 lead from the first leg of the last-16 tie and, after Kylian Mbappe fired past Courtois in the first half, it looked as though the tie could be over.

That was until Benzema led a stirring fightback in the final half-hour, scoring his first after forcing an error from goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and then steering home a deflected strike.

The France striker then flicked in Vinicius Junior's pass to send the home fans into jubilations and mark his 500th start for the club in supreme style by surpassing the great Alfredo Di Stefano in Madrid's all-time scoring charts with 309 in all competitions.

Courtois now thinks Benzema, who became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in Champions League history at the age of 34 years and 80 days, could be in line for the game's top individual honour in 2022.

"I think he's one of the greatest players in the world, the best number nine, maybe with Lewandowski right now," Courtois told RMC Sport.

"I think he showed why he should, maybe, win the Ballon d'Or this year. He's a great player, a real captain. He led the team to victory with his goals and his class."

Mbappe twice saw a goal ruled out for offside prior to Madrid's fightback as PSG again suffered a Champions League second-leg collapse in Spain, five years on from their famous 6-1 loss to Luis Enrique's Barcelona.

"In the end, it was a complicated match with Kylian and Neymar on the counter-attack," said Courtois.

"That was how the first goal came about. Just before then, they had a few chances without much danger.

"We had a nice shot from Karim, I think Donnarumma made a good save from a header. Then Karim pressed the goalkeeper well, he made a mistake, we got back to 1-1. From there, I think the whole stadium was behind us.

"We went for the win after going 2-1 up, the third goal was key, and you felt that for the PSG players, it was harder after this goal."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez predicted Luka Modric could win the Ballon d'Or for a second time after his masterclass in the Supercopa de Espana final.

Croatian playmaker Modric scooped France Football's prestigious prize for world player of the year after his dazzling performances at the 2018 World Cup.

He will turn 37 before the Qatar World Cup in November, but Modric's goal and overall display in the 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday showed he remains a force.

Thibaut Courtois saved a late penalty from Raul Garcia as Madrid made sure of a first trophy since Carlo Ancelotti returned to the club for a second spell as coach.

Asked about Courtois and Modric, Perez said after the game: "Without wanting to brag, they are the two best in their position. The best goalkeeper and Modric in enviable form, worthy of winning the Ballon d'Or again."

Modric's passing accuracy this season is an outstanding 90.41 per cent, and even in the opposition half it is 89.03 per cent, which are impressive numbers given he plays a lot of high-tariff balls.

He has created eight big chances for others this season already and has five assists, while the shot he sent arcing past Unai Simon in the 38th minute at the King Fahd Stadium gave Modric a first goal of the season. He took away the most valuable player award from Sunday's game.

Perez is still probably getting excited too soon, given the Ballon d'Or is an end-of-year prize, but Modric was excellent, and midfield colleague Toni Kroos had a 95 per cent accuracy rate from his game-high 100 passes, helping ensure Madrid had the game tied up before withstanding a late flurry of attacks from Athletic.

Former Barcelona captain Lionel Messi took the Ballon d'Or for a record seventh time last year, with even Robert Lewandowski's Bayern Munich goalscoring feats not enough to knock the Argentine great off his accustomed top spot in the vote.

 

Madrid should win more silverware this season. They lead LaLiga, have a Copa del Rey last-16 clash with Elche on Thursday, and remain in the Champions League, albeit with a tough tie against Paris Saint-Germain coming up next in that competition.

Perez enthused about the prospects for this Ancelotti stint, saying of Madrid's early success: "It means a lot."

Quoted in Marca, Perez said: "We always want to win everything, they taught us that since we were little. This year it was 60 years since I became a member, and that's how we were educated. I work along the lines that Santiago Bernabeu set for us, and I am happy because we have won the first title."

Courtois did not particularly guess right for Garcia's penalty, as much as guess late, meaning his outstretched leg could reach the ball down the middle as the rest of his body lurched to the right.

"I was hesitating between going to the right or staying in the middle," the Belgian goalkeeper told #Vamos, "and that's why I kept my foot there and I was able to stop it. If not, we would have had a heart-stopping final few minutes."

Thibaut Courtois has confirmed he is asymptomatic after returning a positive test result for COVID-19.

The Real Madrid goalkeeper, along with team-mates Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior, was confirmed by Los Blancos to have tested positive in the latest round of testing.

LaLiga leaders Madrid have had to deal with several positive cases within their squad over recent weeks, and are likely to be without the four players for at least their opening matches of 2022, against Getafe and Alcoyano respectively.

While Valverde and Camavinga have made 15 LaLiga starts between them this season, goalkeeper Courtois has started every top-flight match and winger Vinicius has played in all 19 league fixtures, scoring 10 goals and providing four assists.

His 14 goal contributions in LaLiga is topped only by Karim Benzema (22) in Madrid's squad, and the Brazil international could be a big miss for Carlo Ancelotti, while Courtois' steady presence will also be absent.

"Unfortunately, and despite complying with all the measures, I have tested positive for COVID," wrote the Belgium goalkeeper on Twitter.

"Although I do not have any symptoms, I am at home following the corresponding protocol and training to return as soon as possible. Thank you all!"

SAFE HANDS

Courtois has played every minute for Madrid in all competitions so far in 2021-22, with back-up Andriy Lunin yet to make a single LaLiga appearance for Los Blancos across the last two seasons.

The Ukrainian was one of six Madrid players to test positive for COVID-19 last week, though should be in line to return from isolation in time to face Getafe on January 2.

Only Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel (26) has made more appearances of goalkeepers in Europe's top five leagues than Courtois (25) this campaign.

Of shot-stoppers to play at least 20 times, only Yassine Bounou (Sevilla) and Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) – both 15 – have conceded fewer goals than Courtois' tally of 19.

In LaLiga, Courtois concedes 0.84 goals per 90 minutes played, ranking him third out of goalkeepers to have featured at least 10 times in Spain's top flight this season.

Courtois' save percentage of 78.41, meanwhile, leads the way in Europe's top five leagues, out of goalkeepers to have played 20 games or more across all competitions, ahead of Mendy (77.61), and the former Chelsea man has made only one error leading to a shot, with that mistake not resulting in a goal.

Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior have all tested positive for COVID-19, Real Madrid have confirmed.

LaLiga leaders Madrid have had to deal with several positive cases within their squad over recent weeks, and are likely to be without another four players for at least their two opening matches of 2022.

Madrid issued a short statement on Wednesday confirming Courtois, Camavinga, Valverde and Vinicius were the latest players to test positive.

Los Blancos face Getafe in LaLiga on January 2, before travelling to Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey three days later.

David Alaba and Isco were confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus on December 21, taking the total of Madrid players to have contracted the illness to eight in the space of a week.

Luka Modric and Marcelo had gone into quarantine after routine testing on December 15, and Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo and Andriy Lunin then tested positive the following day, along with Carlo Ancelotti's son and technical assistant Davide.

While Valverde and Camavinga have made 15 LaLiga starts between them this season, goalkeeper Courtois has started every top-flight match and winger Vinicius has played in all 19 league fixtures, scoring 10 goals and providing four assists.

His 14 goal contributions in LaLiga is topped only by Karim Benzema (22) in Madrid's squad, and the Brazil international could be a big miss for Ancelotti.

Madrid will be hoping to welcome back the players in time for their home match against Valencia on January 8.

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