Ancelotti has ‘really difficult’ decision to make in goal for Madrid ahead of Champions League final

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti knows he will have a tough decision to make in goal for the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

Will he pick Andriy Lunin, who has played in goal nearly the entire season, or Thibaut Courtois, the veteran who has won the Champions League before but has just returned from injury?

“It’s really difficult,” Ancelotti said Monday. “Both of them deserve to play this final. Lunin, because he did a fantastic season, and Courtois, because he is back from his injury and everyone knows the quality of Courtois.”

Lunin was nursing a fever and was the only Madrid player who didn’t train on Monday. But Ancelotti said the Ukrainian was expected to be available for the final in London.

The illness surely doesn’t help Lunin’s chances, though, and many had already expected Ancelotti to go with the more experienced Courtois despite his lack of minutes.

“After you get injured you are not the best anymore, you have to come back and show that you are the same as you were before, and even better than before,” Courtois said. “I’m glad that I’m playing and training well and that I’m available to play.”

Courtois ruptured a left-knee ligament in August, just two days before the start of the season. The 32-year-old Belgian then also ruptured 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.

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

Lunin earned the starting position over Kepa Arrizabalaga, the former Chelsea player who is Madrid’s other reserve goalkeeper. Ancelotti said Lunin was the best goalkeeper in the world right now.

Courtois has proven experience in finals, though, having 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.

“Both deserve to play for various reasons,” Ancelotti said.

Ancelotti joked he will wait as long as possible to announce the starting goalkeeper because otherwise the debate would be over, and “I like the debate.”


AP soccer:

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