Thomas Tuchel believes Kepa Arrizabalaga “deserves” to start for Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Spain goalkeeper Kepa has slipped behind Edouard Mendy in Chelsea’s pecking order this season – except in the FA Cup.
The £72million club-record signing has started every match for Chelsea in the competition, and will do so again in Saturday’s Wembley showdown with Leicester.
Blues boss Tuchel has confirmed Kepa will start at the weekend, having featured in Wednesday’s 1-0 Premier League home loss to Arsenal.
“He starts the FA Cup final, and we thought it was a good idea to give him the game before,” said Tuchel.
“We trust him and he deserves it, that is the basis of why we put him in the line-up.
“He deserves it. He is so close and good in training.
“We wanted to give him some minutes and take both games together.
“It was an unlucky night for him as well.”
Kepa was left frustrated by leaking the only goal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, as he had to scramble from a loose starting position to claw Jorginho’s misplaced back pass off the goal line.
Emile Smith Rowe pounced on the mistake to put the Gunners into a lead they never relinquished, though more through luck than judgement.
Christian Pulisic saw a goal chalked off for offside by the video assistant referee, while Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud both struck the bar within seconds of each other at the death.
Mason Mount also had a clutch of chances and half-openings that he could not convert, leaving Chelsea frustrated to miss a fine chance to all-but cement a top-four Premier League finish.
Billy Gilmour was withdrawn at half-time in favour of a more attacking formation, with Tuchel confirming the decision had nothing to do with the young Scot’s performance level.
“Well that was an absolutely OK performance,” said Tuchel.
“We saw they defended so deep and we wanted to have Mason who has a better shot from 18 metres to be more dangerous from distance, and have an offensive player like Mason there.
“It wasn’t that Billy was bad, we just wanted an offensive change for tactical power.
“We lacked N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic in midfield. It is unfair to put it all on his shoulders and he had a fantastic game against Manchester City.”
Arsenal kept alive their hopes of Europa League qualification, courtesy of their third-straight Premier League win, leaving defender Rob Holding delighted with the clean sheet.
This was the Gunners’ first win at Stamford Bridge in a decade, and a sizeable league double for Mikel Arteta’s men.
“I managed to block everything, head everything that came my way,” Holding told Arsenal’s official club website.
“We just sort of defended first and then anything we could do with the ball, we did.
“It’s nice to get a double over Chelsea for the season.
“The last 20 minutes they threw everything forward. Zouma came up towards the end and Oli (Giroud) came on and gave them a big threat up front with balls in the air.
“We had to match that and to be fair the back five, the whole team from front to back, defended really well.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe