Kepa to return in one of Chelsea's next two games, Sarri confirms
Kepa Arrizabalaga was punished for refusing to be substituted in the EFL Carabao Cup final, but Maurizio Sarri says he will play again soon.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri confirmed Kepa Arrizabalaga will return to the starting XI in one of their next two fixtures after the Spaniard was punished for refusing to be substituted. Towards the end of extra-time in the 4-3 EFL Carabao Cup final penalties defeat to Manchester City, Kepa went to ground seemingly injured on two occasions, with Chelsea subsequently attempting to replace him with Willy Caballero.
Kepa benched against Spurs
But Kepa refused to leave the pitch in what Sarri later said was a "misunderstanding", his punishment being a fine and a place on the bench for Chelsea's 2-0 win over Tottenham. Sarri is yet to decide which of the two goalkeepers will start for Sunday's trip to local rivals Fulham, but Kepa can expect to be back between the posts against Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League on Thursday if he does not feature at Craven Cottage.
"As I said in the press conference after the [Tottenham] match, the Kepa situation is closed," Sarri told reporters this afternoon. "Kepa is our first goalkeeper, but we are very happy for Willy that he can play in a very difficult match. Kepa will be on the pitch for one of the next two matches. I have not decided yet, I want to see the last two trainings of course, for every player. On Sunday we played 120 minutes and 95 minutes on Wednesday. We ran for 15km on Sunday on average and Wednesday was 12km, so we have to consider it."
Higuaín still acclimatising
Gonzalo Higuaín has had a slow start to life at Chelsea, scoring just two goals – a brace against rock-bottom Huddersfield Town – in seven appearances across all competitions. Sarri has put Higuaín's lack of goals down to not being completely match sharp, but thinks his performance against Spurs showed promise.
"I think the contribution was very good in the last match," Sarri said of the Argentinean striker. "He played with his team-mates very well. I think he now needs more acceleration, because he is a little more resistant. He needs to improve in the physical condition, then he will improve and score."
Parker takes the reins at Fulham
Chelsea will be going up against a Fulham side under new management, as former Blues midfielder Scott Parker has been placed in temporary charge following the dismissal of Sarri's Italian compatriot Claudio Ranieri. Sarri does not think Ranieri will be away for long, however.
"I am really very sorry [that Ranieri lost his job], but I know very well his character, so I know we will see him very soon in another club," he said. "He's very strong and I think in a few days he will be able to think to the next situation, to the future. Usually when there is a change of the coach there is a reaction, and so we have to expect the reaction. It's very difficult to prepare the match because we don't know the new system, new ideas. It's a very difficult match I think."