With Lunin ill, Madrid’s Courtois could start Champions League final

AFP , Friday 31 May 2024

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti may not have such a tough decision to make after all when it comes to picking a goalkeeper for the Champions League final.

Courtois   Lunin
Real Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Real Madrid's Ukrainian goalkeeper #13 Andriy Lunin attend a training session at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 27, 2024, ahead of their Champions League final football match against Borussia Dortmund. Photo: AFP


Much of the pre-game talk has centered around whether Ancelotti will go with Andriy Lunin — who has played for most of the season and led the team to the final — or Thibaut Courtois, the veteran who has recently returned from a long-term knee injury.

Now Lunin is reportedly sick with the flu and said in a post on social media late Thursday that he won’t “be able to prepare” for the final against Borussia Dortmund.

“I am very sad to say that I won’t be able to prepare for the most important game of the season and the most important game of my life with my team,” Lunin wrote on Instagram. “Many thanks for the messages of support and encouragement!”

Coach Ancelotti said on Monday that Lunin was running a fever and was unable to practice with his teammates. Lunin stayed in the Spanish capital while Madrid’s team flew to London on Friday. The club said that he would join the team on Saturday, hours before the game at Wembley Stadium.

Neither the player nor the club have publicly ruled out the possibility of him playing, but his illness could provide an opportunity for Courtois to end his season on a remarkable high after being sidelined for most of the campaign.

Courtois ruptured a left-knee ligament in August, just two days before the start of the season. The 32-year-old Belgian then damaged the meniscus in his right knee in March, when he was close to making a comeback. He was sidelined until the beginning of this month, when he started in a 3-0 win over Cadiz, a victory that secured Madrid’s 36th Spanish league title.

Courtois has proven experience in finals. He won the 2022 Champions League with Madrid, the FA Cup with Chelsea, the Europa League with Atletico Madrid, and two Copa del Rey titles (one for Madrid, one for Atletico), among other titles.

Lunin was back starting when Madrid beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals. He previously saved two penalties in the decisive shootout win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals.

Madrid will be aiming to add to its record 14 European Cups.

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