No hard feelings against Courtois: Atletico Madrid

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Madrid, Feb 9 (IANS) Shortly before La Liga game that pits the bitter cross-town rivals, Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo on Saturday said his team’s fans had nothing against Real Madrid and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Courtois had a three-year spell at Atletico, on loan from Chelsea, before the English club transferred him on permanent basis to Madrid and he could play his first match as a visitor at the Wanda Metropolitano, the new home ground of Atletico as the team geared up for a derby, reports Efe.

Asked about how the Wanda Metropolitano would receive Courtois, Cerezo said: “They will receive him well. He has been a great player, he won La Liga and a Copa del Rey with us and they are going to receive him fantastically well.”

In December, Courtois reportedly attacked Atletico’s coach Diego Simeone over his repeated criticism of Real Madrid, saying the Argentinian sought popularity among Atletico’s fans.

Spain forward Alvaro Morata is set to take on his first derby as Atletico player, against a team he played for between 2010-2014 and 2016-2017 before joining Chelsea.

“I think the stadium will receive him very well,” Cerezo said about the reaction of the fans toward Morata, who has already made his debut with Atletico in the away 1-0 defeat to Real Betis on February 3.

“Everyone is free to do what they consider convenient,” Cerezo said when asked about the player celebrating in case he found the back of the net against Madrid, adding he did not talk with him over this week.

Cerezo seemed to be positive ahead of the game, with his team playing to a 0-0 draw in last year’s derby. “I think sensations are good. The team is in good shape. We are happy, we are doing well in La Liga,” the club president said.

Atletico holds the second spot in La Liga table with a 2-point advantage over third-placed Madrid, meaning Simeone’s side would need to at least a draw to maintain the status quo.

The president declined to single out a player that would be decisive, saying: “all the 22 players can be decisive at any moment.”

Cerezo said a defeat would not rule out the loser from the hunt for La Liga title: “I think on, I think that practically the second half of the seasons is still ahead of us, a lot of matches.”

Barcelona leads the La Liga table with 50 points, six points ahead of Atletico after 22 matches into the season.

The Catalan club is scheduled to take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

–IANS

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