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REAL MADRID

Keylor-Courtois: Real Madrid win reveals apparent Lopetegui plan

Keylor-Courtois: Real Madrid win reveals apparent Lopetegui plan

AFP

Julen Lopetegui appears to have settled on giving Keylor Navas the gloves in the Champions League, with Thibaut Courtois No. 1 in LaLiga.

"I'm not going to say anything at all." That was Julen Lopetegui's categorical response in Tuesday's pre-match press conference when he was, once again, asked about the goalkeeping question. Since the arrival of Thibaut Courtois this summer, the new Real Madrid coach has given little away other than to tell an interview on Spanish radio during the international break: "I have an idea in my head, but we're not going to make it public..."

Courtois in LaLiga, Keylor in Champions League...

In Wednesday's Champions League win over Roma, Lopetegui seemingly revealed what that plan is: Courtois in LaLiga (which, after last season's disastrous title defence, is a key objective for Los Blancos) and Keylor in Europe. Over the summer, the former Spain boss set about trimming his line-up of keepers - having at one point had as many as five at his disposal, he sent Andriy Lunin to Leganés and dropped Luca Zidane back down to Castilla, Real's 'B' team - but waited until this week's Champions League opener to lay his cards on the table.

The gloves went to Keylor. In 13 Champions League appearances in Real's La Décimotercera-winning campaign last term, he had only kept clean sheets in the victories against APOEL and Juventus, but against Roma he produced two key saves from Cengiz Ünder and Aleksandar Kolarov as the holders began with a 3-0 triumph. "He was put to the test and responded well," said Real director Emilio Butragueño after the dominant Group G win.

After getting a vital hand to Kolarov's fizzing second-half effort, Keylor was on the receiving end of two congratulatory pats on the chest from his captain, Sergio Ramos - a sign that the dressing room remained right behind the Costa Rican as he made history, overtaking Paco Buyo's total of 36 games to become the club's second-highest Champions League appearance maker between the sticks (although he is still a full 115 behind leader Iker Casillas' haul of 152).

Casillas at centre of Real Madrid's last glove-share

It was Casillas who was one half of a Real coach's last attempt to rotate in goal, in the 2013/14 season, as Carlo Ancelotti did his best to resolve the keeping conundrum left behind by his predecessor, José Mourinho. The World Cup winner had to make do with Champions League (and Copa del Rey) duty as Diego López was given LaLiga - and it was a story that ended up with La Décima in Lisbon.

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