Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and his Chelsea teammates are in Charlotte on Saturday to play Paris Saint-Germain in an International Champions Cup soccer match at Bank of America Stadium (6:05 p.m., Fox Sports 2). More than 50,000 tickets had been sold for the game as of Friday.
Courtois, who took over as the Blues’ full-time keeper last season, helped Chelsea to the 2014-15 English Premier League championship. He’s also Belgium’s No. 1 goalie. Courtois answered five questions from the Observer’s David Scott on Thursday from Montreal, where the Blues were training a day after they lost to Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls 4-2 in an ICC match in Harrison, N.J.
Q. How difficult will it be for Chelsea to successfully defend its EPL championship?
A. It will be hard; being back-to-back champions is especially difficult. Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal want to be the champions, but they did too last season, and we ended up with more points. It is very tough in England. Every away game is hard, of course. And normally if you’re a big club like Chelsea, you’re supposed to win games at home against smaller clubs. But in England that’s not the case. We must play well every game.
Q. Chelsea has perhaps the world’s best-known soccer coach in Jose Mourinho. What’s it like to play for him?
A. He has his own way of training and putting teams together. He knows how to motivate and is excellent with tactics. Like every manager, he makes jokes with us, but then he is serious when he needs to be. He knows how to create a winning dynamic.
Q. With the EPL season starting Aug. 6, how do you treat these “friendlies” in North America?
A. We want to win them, but the most important thing is to play well and train hard while we’re here. We thought we had prepared well for (Wednesday’s game), but we didn’t play well in the second half. Last summer, we lost 3-0 in our final (preseason) game (to Werder Bremen in Germany), but we became champions.
Q. You will face one of the world’s top players in PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Saturday. How do you prepare for him?
A. We played against him last season. He’s very strong with his head and and always knows where the goal is. Every player on the pitch has his own personality, and he has his own. He will be a good test for our team.
Q. PSG eliminated Chelsea from the UEFA Champions League semifinals last season. Is that a motivation for you Saturday?
A. Yes, of course we remember that. But we’re not seeking revenge for those games. We want to move on. PSG is a strong team and we’re both preparing for our new seasons.