Kepa Arrizabalaga odds-on to start against Spurs despite cup final antics


Odds suggest Kepa will start against Tottenham Hotspur

Kepa Arrizabalaga ended up being the main talking point after the 2019 Carabao Cup final. The Chelsea goalkeeper refused to come off the pitch after the fourth official had put his number up, with manager Maurizio Sarri wanting to put Willy Caballero on.

The game had been a fairly dull one until that point. Indeed after 90 minutes it finished 0-0 and the scores were still tied by the time the intended substitution came around.

With a penalty shootout looming, Kepa went down not once but twice after appearing to cramp up. It was at that point when Sarri opted to bring the Spanish stopper off and replace him with Caballero, a man who has form when it comes to penalty saves having stopped three in Manchester City's League Cup triumph against Liverpool back in 2016.

However Kepa, who cost the Blues a club record transfer fee of £71 million last summer, appeared to defy his manager and refused to leave the field. Referee Jonathan Moss was forced to go over to Sarri and explain the situation, with the Italian eventually conceding and allowing the goalkeeper to play on.

But he couldn't prevent the Blues from falling to a shootout defeat, with City scoring four of their five spot kicks to win the trophy. Kepa did save one penalty from Leroy Sané and probably should have saved Sergio Aguero's effort too which squirmed underneath him.

Bookmaker Paddy Power have opened up a market for whether or not Kepa will start Chelsea's next fixture following the controversy, which is a huge Premier League clash against fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur. And according to the odds, the Spaniard will NOT lose his place between the sticks with a price of 1/4 for him to start the match. Alternatively the odds for him to be dropped are at 5/2, so they clearly feel that the former Athletic Bilbao stopper's place in the starting 11 remains secure.

After the game, inevitably, questions were asked about the incident when Sarri fulfilled his media duties. After going ballistic on the touchline about his goalkeepers antics, most expected him to hang the 24-year-old out to dry. However, perhaps somewhat surprisingly he instead claimed that the incident was a "misunderstanding".

Speaking to the press, Sarri said: "I misunderstood the problem and only realised the situation when the doctor arrived at the bench. He understood I asked for a change for his physical problem. He said: 'I haven't a physical problem.' And he was right."

Meanwhile, Kepa himself has also spoken out on the incident on his own personal Twitter account. He seemed to echo his manager's comments by saying: "It was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey or anything like that with the boss.

"It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench and they explained everything well. He thought I couldn't continue, and - fundamentally - I was trying to say that physically I was fine."

Sarri remains under pressure

It was an improved display from Chelsea overall, certainly much better than the performance they put in when Manchester City battered them 6-0 earlier in the month. That will please Sarri and perhaps it will keep him in a job for now.

However Sarri has been under pressure at Stamford Bridge after some poor results of late, and the incident involving Kepa will do nothing to help the 60-year-old's situation. Having already claimed that he cannot motivate this group of players following their defeat to Arsenal, the Spanish goalkeepers clear disregard for his managers decision to substitute him will lead to further questions about the Italian's authority in the Chelsea dressing room.

Whether or not he completes the season with Chelsea remains to be seen. They may choose to stick with him as they are still in contention to finish fourth in the Premier League and are through to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.

But if they fail to finish fourth and don't win a trophy, the situation is already looking almost untenable for the former Napoli man.

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