London (AFP) – Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said Kepa Arrizabalaga “deserves” a starting spot in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Leicester even though the world’s most expensive goalkeeper is second choice at Stamford Bridge.
Kepa has played second fiddle to Edouard Mendy since the Senegal international joined from Ligue 1 side Rennes in September but has started every FA Cup match this season under Tuchel and his predecessor Frank Lampard.
The Spaniard, 26, made a rare league outing in Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat by Arsenal, with Tuchel saying he wanted to give the £72 million ($101 million) goalkeeper a game before the Wembley showpiece.
“He starts the FA Cup final, and we thought it was a good idea to give him the game before,” Tuchel said. “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 has struggled to justify the record transfer fee paid out when Italian Maurizio Sarri was in charge in 2018.
He was dropped last season before regaining his place but has been number two in the pecking order since Mendy arrived.