Kepa Arrizabalaga

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Kepa replaces De Gea as Spain starting goalkeeper

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There’s a clear new starting goalkeeper for the Spanish National Team.

After three straight starts, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has taken the mantle of Spain’s No. 1 goalkeeper from Manchester United’s David De Gea. According to Spanish publication Marca, the decision likely came from both assistant and interim coach Robert Moreno and Spain head coach Luis Enrique, through mobile correspondence over the past few weeks.

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Kepa started at the Faroe Islands in a 4-1 win last Friday for Spain on the road and he’s followed that with a start at home against Sweden. Kepa had made his first start in this run in a 2-0 win at Malta. All three matches have been for Euro 2020 qualification.

The move away from de Gea comes after a number of factors. De Gea has had, by all accounts, a rough season with Man United, especially as the team struggled through the last two months of the Premier League season. In April alone, his three errors in four games cost his team victories, and were so out of character compared with how he had played in the past. It’s as if all the pressure he had absorbed over the years had finally caused the dam to break.

At the same time, de Gea was in goal as Spain finished second in their UEFA Nations League group in 2018, including defeats to both England and Croatia.

At the same time, Kepa has had a very strong season in his first campaign at Chelsea, leading the side to third place in the league and stepping into goal for the UEFA Europa League final. It’s a deserved promotion for Kepa, even if it’s a tough demotion for de Gea.

The Man United goalkeeper, at 28-years old, could still have a future at the national team level. However, he’ll have to be happy to play second fiddle yet again after three years as the Spain No. 1.

Everton upends Chelsea at Goodison Park (video)

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Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson scored second half goals as Everton handed Chelsea a 2-0 setback at Goodison Park on Sunday.

The loss keeps Chelsea in sixth place, three points behind Arsenal and one shy of Manchester United.

Everton is 11th with 40 points.

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Gonzalo Higuain was saved by Jordan Pickford moments after Eden Hazard hit an early effort off the far goal post.

Mostly, however, the first half was a series of Chelsea chances without finish, Pedro a particularly busy and influential member of the visitors.

The Spaniard had the ball in the back of the net off a free kick sent over the top of the Everton back line, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.

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The second half began with a bang, the noise made when Andre Gomes saw his shot move off the cross bar.

Richarlison then burst toward a loose ball and headed into the Chelsea goal after Dominic Calvert-Lewin‘s header off a corner was parried by Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Pickford then kept the lead in tact with a terrific low save on a Higuain drive through traffic.

Richarlison then won a penalty when he chipped a ball past Marcos Alonso and the Spaniard stepped on his foot. Sigurdsson saw his penalty saved by Arrizabalaga, but rolled in the rebound.

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Caballero backs Kepa, Sarri moves on after Chelsea win

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Chelsea’s Willy Caballero must’ve been feeling some pressure after sliding into Kepa Arrizabalaga‘s shoes following the fallout from the latter’s refusal to leave Sunday’s League Cup Final loss to Manchester City.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 2-0 Spurs ]

While the Blues’ backstop didn’t actually have to stop a Spurs shot on target, he kept the clean sheet and managed to big up his young goalkeeping partner in the post-match press conference.

“Always a clean sheet for me is satisfaction,” Caballero said. “We spoke about what happened and the very good news … is we are ready. Kepa was fantastic today supporting me. I think he learned and we learned and we are improving as a team.”

Pedro scored and was a general force for the Blues, and has seen his share of drama between his time at Barcelona and Chelsea.

He was not worried after the game, as Chelsea rebounded from a bad run to beat a big rival. And more importantly, he says the team is unified in its pursuit of its goals.

“It’s good to stay all together,” Pedro said. “It’s a big team. From here until the rest of the season, we aim for Top Four and also to win the Europa League.”

As for the man closest to the center of the Kepa incident, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri said Wednesday’s match and the punishment to move Arrizabalaga to the bench were both victories for the club.

“It was really very easy because Kepa made a big mistake and then paid with the club. In this match he has to pay for the team. It was only a message for all the team, the dressing room, we are a team, not 25 individuals. Now we stop the question, it is behind us and in the future Kepa will be with us.”

Sarri drops Kepa to Chelsea bench as Caballero starts against Spurs

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Chelsea fined goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga one week’s wages for his refusal of a substitution in the dying minutes of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. Many wondered whether that would be all the punishment Maurizio Sarri would dish out for an act of clear defiance.

That would not be all the punishment for the 24-year-old.

Maurizio Sarri has left Kepa on the bench for the enormous Premier League match against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, naming Willy Caballero to the starting lineup. The game kicks off at 3:00 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chelsea v. Tottenham on NBCSports.com ]

Caballero was left befuddled on the touchline on Sunday during Kepa’s antics, dressed and ready to come on after the Spaniard was apparently injured moments earlier. However, Kepa popped up and wildly waved Sarri off who was prepared to bring on the backup with penalties looming. Kepa then failed to slow Manchester City in the shootout, most notably seeing Sergio Aguero’s effort slip straight through his hands after reaching the shot.

In his pre-match media opportunities, Sarri was asked extensively about the situation, and claimed that he had not made a  decision on whether to start or sit Kepa moving forward, but that his decision either way needs to “send a message to my group.” He also said that he did not want to over-punish Kepa and that “we don’t want to kill him” for making a mistake.

In the immediate aftermath of the match, Sarri called the whole situation a “misunderstanding” and explained that he believed Kepa to be injured, while the player was not refusing a substitute, but instead simply gesturing that he was fit enough to continue.

Player discipline aside, the decision is a massive one given the stakes of the game. The pressure has already been applied to Sarri for the last few weeks with Chelsea’s league form dipping and the club dropping to sixth in the Premier League table. Spurs, meanwhile, will feel the need to win if its slim title hopes are to remain, giving the match an even bigger edge.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Spurs

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Two managers embroiled in weekend controversy look to put a positive spin on the drama when Chelsea hosts Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri was already under fire before goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga openly defied his substitution call late in the League Cup Final on Sunday, and the Blues were denied silverware when Man City won in penalty kicks.

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And Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino went bonkers on referee Mike Dean after Burnley beat his Spurs 2-1, an upset that put his side six points back of the table lead instead of three.

So it’s a big day for both men on Wednesday, with Spurs hoping to keep their feet in the title race and Chelsea keeping its eyes trained on the Top Four. The Blues are three points back of fourth place Arsenal.

What they’re saying

Kepa Arrizabalaga on his bizarre refusal to sub off in the League Cup Final: “Although there was a misunderstanding, on reflection, I made a big mistake with how I handled the situation. I wanted to take the time today to apologise fully and in person to the coach, to Willy, my team-mates and to the club. I have done this and now I want to offer the same apology to the fans.”

Mauricio Pochettino on his post-match confrontation of referee Mike Dean“I hope I don’t repeat this type of situation. It’s not going to help my team, my club, the job of the referees and, of course, myself. I think I’m a very smart person who cannot repeat the same mistake. I was so frustrated after the game, so disappointed with the result. I didn’t want to justify the defeat and complain with the referee. It’s only that when you start to talk, your heart-rate starts to push.”

Prediction

Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son hits their stride, and Chelsea is just a bit too gassed after 120 minutes and a silverware setback on Sunday. Spurs 2-0.

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