The furore over Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ potential involvement in his side’s Champions League semi-final clash with parent-club Chelsea looks set to die down after UEFA cleared the Belgian number one to play, spelling bad news for the Premier League team.
Jose Mourinho’s men – 3/4 to beat Swansea at the Liberty Stadium – are currently 9/10 outsiders to progress to a European final for the third year on the bounce and news that an agreement with Atleti regarding the keeper’s availability for the match won’t bind will have been met with grimaces on the King’s Road.
The giant former Genk youth broke Victor Valdes and Iker Casillas’ stranglehold over Spain’s ‘Golden Gloves’ award for the keeper with the most clean sheets last term and is nine Atleti victories away from adding La Liga and Champions League winning medals to that trinket.
Whether Atleti – 5/6 favourites to reach the final for the first time in 40 years – will pick Courtois for either or both legs is not yet known and the club is expected to consider the medium to long-term implications of fielding their star stopper against his registration holders.
Los Colchoneros would like Courtois back on loan for a fourth season in 2014/15 and are worried that, by upsetting Chelsea, they run the risk of being denied that opportunity.
However, throwing caution to the wind and playing the 21-year-old may instead increase Atleti’s chances of landing him for keeps.
Helping to knock Chelsea out of the Champions League semi-final would expose Courtois to the wrath of the Stamford Bridge faithful and make the difficult job of displacing Petr Cech – who, at 31-years-old, has plenty of miles left in the tank – nigh on impossible.
Rumours abound that Courtois will be used as a bargaining tool in a Blues bid to land Atleti’s wrecking-ball striker Diego Costa and with financial fair play constraints reportedly dominating thoughts in west London, Mourinho may feel that keeping his stalwart stopper in situ is a no brainer.
Besides, Diego Simeone will surely start the youngster in the home first-leg of the club’s biggest game since the 70s, after replacement goalie Daniel Aranzubia proved himself an unpredictable deputy during his two appearances this term.
The 34-year-old saved a penalty in the 2-0 Champions League win at home to Porto back in December, but was sent off in the 2-0 loss at Almeria in February.