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Ancelotti Faces Goalkeeper Dilemma ahead of Champions League Final. Courtois or Lunin?

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will give Thibaut Courtois another chance to impress before deciding which of his goalkeepers will start the Champions League final.

While, Courtois is considered one of the world’s top goalkeepers, he has just recently returned from a long-term injury. In his absence, backup Andriy Lunin helped take the team to the June 1 final against Borussia Dortmund.

Ancelotti said Friday he plans to give Courtois more playing time in the league to assess his form, but that he had one month “to think about it.”

Lunin was a rarely used backup to Courtois until the Belgian ruptured a left-knee ligament in August just two days before the start of the season. The Ukrainian took over the staring job and has impressed in his place.

Courtois had been sidelined until he started last weekend’s 3-0 win over Cadiz, a victory that secured Madrid’s 36th Spanish league title.

But Lunin was back in the net for Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals.

Ancelotti said Friday that Courtois will play on Saturday when Madrid visits Granada in the league. He said he would rest several starters, including Jude Bellingham, for a game that has no implications for Madrid. Granada is in 19th place and struggling to avoid relegation.

After Granada, Madrid will have three more Spanish league games before the big final in London.

“Courtois will play tomorrow,” Ancelotti said. “I have these (remaining) games to evaluate the goalkeepers.”

Lunin consolidated himself as Ancelotti’s first-choice keeper even after Madrid brought in Kepa Arrizabalaga following the injury to Courtois. The 25-year-old Ukrainian saved two penalties in the decisive shootout win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals.

Courtois, however, has proven experience in finals. The 31-year-old Belgian 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 several other titles.

Former Madrid and Spain goalie Iker Casillas weighed in, saying that for him Lunin should stay in goal against Dortmund.

“Lunin has shown he has sure hands in goal and can rise to the moment,” Casillas said, while questioning whether Courtois would have enough time to regain his top form for the final.

“I completely respect what a Madrid legend says, but I don’t want to get into this debate because I have this month to think about it,” Ancelotti said when asked about Casillas’ opinion.

TCHOUAMENI DOUBTFUL

Ancelotti may have to find a replacement for holding midfielder Aurélien Tchouameni for the final after he was diagnosed with a left-foot injury.

“We have doubts about Tchouameni being able to play the final,” Ancelotti said.

If the France midfielder does not recover, then his spot would likely go to countryman Eduardo Camavinga.

WEEKEND GAMES

While Granada must try to beat Madrid to boost its chances of staying up, 19th-placed Cadiz is even closer to relegation before it plays Getafe on Sunday.

Girona will look to hold on to second place when it visits Alaves on Friday, while third-placed Barcelona hosts Real Sociedad on Monday.

Atletico Madrid is in fourth place and clinging to the final Champions League berth. It hosts Celta Vigo on Sunday. Athletic Bilbao, in fifth, welcomes Osasuna on Saturday trailing Atletico by six points.

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By JOSEPH WILSON Associated Press

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