Kepa's fate in balance | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 03, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 03, 2019

Kepa's fate in balance

Maurizio Sarri is set to decide whether to end Kepa Arrizabalaga's Chelsea exile at Fulham on Sunday as the under-fire Blues boss and his controversial keeper face a defining moment in their troubled season.

Sarri dropped Kepa for Chelsea's midweek 2-0 win over Tottenham as punishment for the Spaniard's refusal to be substituted during last weekend's League Cup final defeat against Manchester City.

The Italian was apoplectic at Kepa's Wembley mutiny and, already battling to avoid the sack in the midst of a nightmare campaign, he responded to the challenge to his authority by wielding the axe.

Popular Argentine veteran Willy Caballero replaced Kepa against Spurs and delivered a confident performance while the world's most expensive keeper kicked his heels on the bench.

Whether Sarri feels compelled to recall Kepa after his slap on the wrist is the key question hanging over Chelsea as they make the short trip to take on struggling Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Sarri claimed after the Tottenham match that Kepa remained his "first choice" keeper, but on Friday he refused to confirm whether the former Athletic Bilbao star would feature against Fulham.

Instead, he said revealed Kepa and Caballero would each start one of Chelsea's next two games, with the Fulham fixture followed by a Europa League last 16 first leg tie against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday.

"We are very happy for Willy, because now we know very well he's able to play also in a very difficult match," Sarri said.

"I'm sure in one of the two next matches Kepa will be on the pitch."

Sixth placed Chelsea have no margin for error as they try to climb back into the top four.

They trail fourth placed Arsenal by three points and a shock defeat against managerless Fulham would leave Sarri back on the brink of the sack after a draining week for him and his team.

"I think we need to change three or four players, I don't know how many exactly," he said.

"On Sunday we played for 130 minutes and 95 minutes on Wednesday, so I need to value the recovery of every single player. Then we have to decide the team."

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