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Courtois can play, says Chelsea chief

ESPN staff
April 11, 2014 « Koch named Europe's captain for 2015 | Test Wayin World Cup »
Gourlay: Away leg helps Chelsea

Thibaut Courtois can play for Atletico Madrid in their Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, says the Premier League club's chief executive Ron Gourlay.

The goalkeeper is on loan from Chelsea and has been key to helping Atletico to the last four of Europe's elite competition for the first time since 1974.

But with Friday's draw pairing the two clubs, Chelsea were warned by UEFA they could face sanctions if Courtois is not allowed to play for Atletico.

In safe hands?

Dani Aranzubia would be Thibaut Courtois' likely replacement © Getty Images
  • Should Thibaut Courtois not feature against Chelsea, Atletico would likely field second choice goalkeeper Dani Aranzubia, who has played only twice this season.
  • Aranzubia has had mixed results, to say the least - he saved a penalty on his first outing in December's 2-0 Champions League win at home to Porto with Courtois suspended, coming after Atletico had already qualified for the knockout stages as group winners.
  • However in his other appearance, February's 2-0 Liga defeat to Almeria, Aranzubia was sent off.

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo claimed this week a clause existed in the loan agreement between the clubs prohibiting Courtois from playing should they meet, unless there was the payment of a large penalty sum - believed to be around £2.5m per match - which the financially troubled La Liga outfit could not afford to pay.

Gourlay insists Chelsea won't stop Courtois from playing against them - but didn't mention whether Atletico would have to pay them a fee.

"The loan was arranged back at the start of the season," Gourlay told Sky Sports News. "It's quite simple - Thibaut can play against Chelsea. That was never in doubt.

"Regarding the UEFA statement, we'll evaluate that in due course. As far as Chelsea's concerned, we've complied with the loan rules."

Meanwhile, Atletico director Clemente Villaverde has said UEFA regulations allow Courtois to play against Chelsea without any penalty sum having to be paid, but stopped short of confirming the goalkeeper would definitely be selected for the games.

Villaverde, who reportedly met with UEFA officials before the draw was made to discuss the matter, told Spanish newspaper AS afterwards that the competition rules would come before any private agreement between two clubs.

"Courtois would be able to play with a financial penalty, but article three of UEFA's regulations prohibits [that clause]," Villaverde said. "The UEFA regulations are above any agreement with Chelsea. There cannot be limits on free participation in the competition."

Villlaverde did not however go so far as to say Atletico would definitely play Courtois in both legs, or if other considerations - such as whether the club would like the player on loan again next season - may come into play.

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