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English Premiership

Courtois on Chelsea not playing in Europe

Chelsea coach Antonio Conte (left) congratulates goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after the Premier League victory over Southampton on October 30, 2016

LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 8 – Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has questioned the assertion that they are benefitting from not playing European football in midweek.

The Blues have become accustomed to competing in the Champions League, or at least the Europa League, but a 10th place finish in the Premier League last season means that they miss out this campaign.

That leaves Antonio Conte’s side with a full week to recuperate and prepare for domestic matches, but the Belgian goalkeeper is not certain that it is an unmitigated advantage for the league leaders.

“In some ways it’s good, in other ways maybe not,” he told the club’s official website. “Everybody wants to play in Europe and if you’re in the rhythm of playing a game every three or four days, sometimes you can play better, even though it’s harder at the end of the season.

“We have a lot of people on the bench who want to play and maybe haven’t had as many minutes as they deserve, and if we had European football they would have played more minutes.

“The other year when we were champions (in the 2014–15 season), we had European football so I don’t think it makes a big difference.”

The Blues have a nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings after Saturday’s victory over Arsenal, and travel to Turf Moor on Sunday.

“The players don’t want to relax,” Courtois added. “We know we still have 14 games to go. Next we go to Burnley, which is always difficult. It’s all about the next game and we have to be ready for that.”

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