Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Kepa Arrizabalaga will start for Chelsea in the FA Cup tomorrow and Billy Gilmour also has ‘a big chance’ to feature, although Timo Werner will not be risked for the trip to Barnsley.
The Blues are back in South Yorkshire for the second time in five days as our cup campaign continues at the fifth-round stage, with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs. Our German head coach has confirmed ‘there is a high possibility that we will see a lot of changes’ but he still expects to select a strong side at Oakwell.
Three wins and a draw have followed Tuchel’s appointment at Stamford Bridge just over a fortnight ago and, although there has been no action for Kepa or Gilmour under the new boss yet, that is set to change against the side currently 13th in the Championship.
‘Kepa will start the game,’ confirmed Tuchel. ‘He will get the chance and I hope he can show what he shows in training.
‘We did not change the goalkeeper from the first game because Edou [Mendy] has been very strong but this is an opportunity for Kepa. It’s very important for me that he does not want to over-achieve because I want him to do a normal match. He just has to show the quality that he has and give a solid performance to help the team.’
Tuchel has been happy with the Spaniard’s work since he arrived at Cobham and believes he is one of three strong goalkeepers within the group, even if it is a position that requires careful management given the inability to rotate often.
‘I feel all three goalkeepers are in a good atmosphere,’ Tuchel continued. ‘They are like competitors to each other because this is a very special position in football. It’s a decisive position and it has its own rules because if you make mistakes then everybody sees it and talks about it. You need a lot of mental strength and quality, which I can see in all the three goalkeepers.
‘It is our job to push the guys to the limit. Of course, the club wants their market value to stay the same or increase but we are pretty selfish because we want to have them in the best shape on the pitch and we want the best competition in every position.
‘Goalkeeper is not a position you can change after 60 minutes to give a reward like you can do with the outfield players so this makes it a bit special because you cannot show them that you trust them and appreciate them in the same way that you can show it to the other players.
‘This is unique but I think the guys know it because they have played this position for many years. It is our job to push Kepa to the limit, to trust him and build up his strengths because we rely on him and we need three strong goalkeepers to achieve our goals.’
Gilmour has yet to feature under Tuchel but the Scottish teenager did play 90 minutes in both our previous FA Cup games this campaign against Morecambe and Luton Town. He has a decent chance of starting again tomorrow and the new boss has explained why.
‘First of all, I like him as a person because for me he represents everything that a young guy from the Academy should represent when he arrives in the first team,’ Tuchel explained.
‘He is happy to be here and living his dream. He has the perfect mix between being humble and patient but also trying in every training session to improve and learn and not show too much respect.
'Billy has a lot of qualities – he is very self-confident in our training games, a very strong passer, very smart in finding positions and he has all the physical abilities to play in the first team.
‘We have a strong midfield and he is clearly one of four players for central midfield behind Jorginho, [Mateo] Kovacic and N’Golo Kante. That makes it difficult for him to find his place but he is the number four right now in my head and to be the number four out of two positions is a pretty good start. We are happy to have him and we are absolutely ready to push him and support him on his way.’
One player who will not be travelling to Barnsley is Timo Werner, who came off at Sheffield United with a dead leg and will not be risked.
‘It’s still painful with contact so we took him out of the training when we did some small-sided games,’ added Tuchel. ‘We didn’t risk it and we will not risk it against Barnsley.
‘He had a huge impact in our recent games so that’s why we’re a bit sad because it would have been possible to keep him in this momentum and give him another chance to maybe find the net but it’s good for him now to recover and hopefully be back on Monday.’