Thibaut Courtois returns to Real Madrid training after early Belgian withdrawal
Thibaut Courtois has been spotted back in Real Madrid training after a muscular strain prompted the goalkeeper to withdraw from Belgium's international squad.
Sweden forced Courtois into four saves as the 30-year-old kept a clean sheet in Belgium's opening fixture of the qualification process for the 2024 European Championships on Friday. Courtois has stopped the opposition from scoring in 49 of his 101 international appearances.
Romelu Lukaku rifled in a hat-trick to ensure that Domenico Tedesco won his first match as Belgium's manager. However, the former RB Leipzig boss was robbed of the national team's clear number one for Belgium's friendly against Germany, the hosts of Euro 2024.
On Monday, the day before Belgium duked out an entertaining 3-2 victory over Germany, Courtois' national team revealed that the goalkeeper had sustained a ‘minor adductor strain’.
It proved to be so minor that Courtois was pictured diving around the pitches of Valdebebas, Real Madrid's vaunted training complex, as soon as Wednesday. Given the friendly status of Belgium's meeting with Germany, there was clearly no point risking Courtois with what lies ahead for Real Madrid.
Courtois is set to be back between the sticks for Real Madrid's next La Liga match, which pits the reigning champions against relegation-threatened Real Valladolid. Pacheta's side travel to the Santiago Bernabeu precariously perched in 16th place going into the weekend's fixtures, a narrow two points above Valencia in the drop zone.
However, after losing El Clasico to Barcelona just before the international break, Madrid's chief focus is no longer on overhauling the 12-point gap up to first place. Instead, Carlo Ancelotti's side will be set on overturning the 1-0 deficit which they take to Camp Nou on Wednesday 5 April for the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
Real Madrid have already been beaten three times - in three different competitions - by Barcelona this season. If they are to advance in Spain's primary cup competition, they cannot afford to lose again.
Los Blancos host Villarreal in the league on the subsequent weekend before Chelsea, Courtois' former employers, travel to Spain's capital for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday 12 April. Courtois admitted in 2018 that he was 'sad' that Chelsea fans were angry with the manner in which he left Stamford Bridge, delaying his return from the Russian World Cup as his La Liga transfer was finalised.
When Courtois first arrived at Real, with the club transitioning after the departure of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and manager Zinedine Zidane, he didn't seamlessly adapt to his new surroundings. However, across the subsequent five years, Courtois has emerged as one of Madrid's most consistent performers and was crowned the best keeper in the world at the 2022 Ballon d'Or awards.
Although, he lost out to Aston Villa's Argentine shot-stopper Emi Martinez in the FIFA Best Awards last February.
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