The FA Cup 5th round match will be Kepa’s 7th competitive match for Chelsea so far this season. He became a second choice goalkeeper at Chelsea almost immediately after the arrival of Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy last summer.
Kepa who joined Chelsea in August 2018 from Athletic Bilbao for a world transfer fee for a goalkeeper worth £71million, was under intense pressure and criticism throughout the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons.
Unfortunately for the 26-year-old Spaniard who used to be the top choice goalkeeper of Spain national team, he has not only lost his place at Chelsea, he has lost his number one rating in his country’s football team.
Before things became this bad for the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa was able to keep 34 clean sheets in 101 games. However, the fact that he has conceded 117 goals in the remaining 67 appearances for Chelsea has overshadowed the couple of bright moments he has had at the club.
With the sort of history behind Kepa, coach Thomas Tuchel has urged him not to try to over-impress when he faces Barnsley at Oakwell Stadium today at 21:00. The German tactician said all he needs from the Spanish goalkeeper is the quality the former Athletic Bilbao’s star has to offer.
“I need to say this: he doesn’t have to overachieve,” said Tuchel. “I want him to play a normal match tomorrow (Thursday, February 11). He does not have to show me or anybody else tomorrow he is ready to be Spain’s number one in the summer.
“He just has to show his quality. Not more or less. So we have to manage expectations because I don’t expect him to score and keep a clean sheet.
“I just want him to help us with his quality and for him to give a solid performance to help the team. He has big goals to achieve and big personal ambition. But this is normal; it’s why he’s here.
“No goalkeeper wants to sit on the bench, I understand that. And none of my guys want to travel tomorrow to sit on the bench.
“The situation for Kepa is the situation he finds right now. We didn’t make a change in the first games and You were strong in the moment.
“From the outside, he had maybe some difficulties on the sporting side, and maybe also the circumstances of his transfer were a little bit on his shoulders. That was the impression from the outside.
“From inside I see a nice guy, I see a nice personality, an open personality, a hard-working guy, with obviously a lot of quality.
“So the good thing for him is that we start new, it’s a new start for him. I don’t have a history with him and I hope there will be no difficulties because I don’t see them coming.
“He’s a clear guy, an open guy. He does everything to impress in training. Kepa has a chance tomorrow and I hope he can show what he shows in training.
“No matter if we bought them for crazy money if they come through the academy, or they were a free agent, it is our job to push every player to the limit; this is what counts.
“It is our job to push Kepa to the limit, to trust him, and to build up his strengths. We rely on him and we need three strong goalkeepers to fulfill our goals.”