CHELSEA had Kepa Arrizabalaga to thank for their Carabao Cup win over rivals Brentford.
Thomas Tuchel has made a number of changes to his team with a number of young players and fringe players getting consent to start.
Kepa, 27, has certainly had to be patient for game time this season, with just six appearances in all.
But he has shown Tuchel that he will have nothing to fear when No 1 Edouard Mendy will attend the Cup of African Nations next month.
Speaking after the game, Tuchel said: “He’s in that state of mind as a person, a character and an athlete where he’s just dedicated.
“This is what he shows every day in practice and that’s why he gets rewarded and has performances like this.”
First, he denied Brentford’s Yoann Wissa from space, showing amazing reactions to stopping the winger’s header.
Later in the first half, he had to be alert again when Mathias Jensen headed towards goal but the Spaniard pulled back with his effort.
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And Kepa ensured his side got into the game when he denied Rico Henry – the Bees defender broke through the Blues defence but Kepa brought him down brilliantly.
Three stunning saves kept the game 0-0 – with Chelsea going on to win 2-0 after Pontus Jansson’s own goal and Jorginho’s penalty.
That bodes well for Chelsea, who won’t have Mendy in important matches.
The Senegal international will be absent from Chelsea’s visit to Manchester City, with Kepa likely to be substituted.
And the £72m star is likely to be in the middle for the next game – Tottenham’s little problem at home.
If Senegal goes far in Afcon then Mendy may not be back to kick off the Club World Cup, which kicks off on 9 February.
That is three days later than the final of the Cup of African Nations on February 6 – the tournament kicks off on January 9.
AFCON organizers have confirmed the tournament will continue scheduled, dismissing speculation that it could be delayed due to concerns surrounding Covid-19 and the Omicron variant.
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https://www.the-sun.com/sport/premier-league/4324913/kepa-brentford-chelsea-mendy-africa-nations-cup/ Watch Kepa’s stunning saves against Brentford as the Chelsea keeper shows he can replace Mendy in the Africa Cup of Nations