Thibaut Courtois was full of praise for the man at the other end of the field after Saturday’s win, and now looks ahead to a significant week on a personal and collective level.
Courtois was only put into part-time employment at Stoke on Saturday as we swept the Potters away, largely thanks to an Alvaro Morata hat-trick, while for the goalkeeper it was a third successive clean sheet, having recorded shut-outs against Qarabag and Arsenal before this one.
‘We know he is a top striker. We know he has this ability and we’re very happy for him that he scored his hat-trick,’ said the 25-year-old. ‘Stoke away is a very hard game. Last year we won only in the last minutes. This year Arsenal lost here and United struggled so we must be pleased.
‘Not only the hat-trick, but since the beginning he is scoring goals. He feels good, a striker lives on goals and he has already scored a few important ones this season. It’s his first hat-trick in the Premier League but he was feeling good already.’
Stoke was just the first challenge of three in a huge week for the Blues. On Saturday we host Manchester City at the Bridge as we aim to make strides in the title race, but before then, there is the matter of a Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid – the club at which Courtois spent three seasons on loan from the Blues from 2011 to 2014, winning La Liga and reaching the Champions League final.
There will be familiar faces for the Belgian when we arrive in the Spanish capital, though the venue will be new. Atleti opened their Wanda Metropolitano stadium this season and it will be his first visit following their move from the Vicente Calderon.
‘I remember I was at the presentation of the new stadium when they first revealed it. I went there to see the place when they only had one stand and they were doing the groundwork,’ he explained. ‘It will be nice to see it. Obviously different from going to the Calderon but they needed a new stadium and I think it will help Atletico to grow even more as a top club.
‘There are a lot of people there so close to my heart that work there and play there. It will be special for me to go back but only this time I hope we win. It will be a very nice evening for me, but I am very hungry and focused to get three points there.’
Courtois will be guaranteed a warm reception from the home support. One player unlikely to get a similar reception is Morata, having arrived at Stamford Bridge from Atletico’s major rivals Real in the summer.
‘He will get a different one from me!’ joked the goalkeeper. ‘Alvaro played a lot of games against Atletico. I think he scored, I am not sure, so for him it will be a big game against his rivals. For me it will be more friendly but between the 90 minutes we are playing there will be rivalry for me as well because they want their team to win.’
Diego Costa was a team-mate of Courtois both at Atletico and at Chelsea, prior to the agreement reached last week for the striker's transfer back to the Madrid club.
'He is a very good friend and it will be nice to see him there,' said Courtois.
'I am happy that until the New Year we don’t have to face him and I hope we continue in the Champions League. You never know if we can face him later but I prefer not! He was always a nice guy in the dressing room. I have known him for six years and he is a good friend.
'We have a new striker and he is doing well and we have to move on. As a friend I will miss Diego, and as a player as well, but Alvaro came in and is doing a job so we are happy with that.'
Less than 72 hours after playing in Spain, we will be back at the Bridge hosting Pep Guardiola’s City, who have started the campaign well and were 5-0 winners against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
‘City is doing really well and scored a lot of goals. It will be interesting for us,’ Courtois acknowledged. ‘We started this difficult week well and hopefully on Wednesday we can carry on the form with two massive games before the international break again.
We will analyse [City] after Atletico. We know how City play, there is nothing new and they may be even better than last year but there is nothing to fear. We are doing well and are happy to be close to the top. If we want to close the gap we have to try and win.’