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Kepa Arrizabalaga to make first Chelsea begin since October


Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (left) dives but cannot prevent Southampton scoring during a Premier League match in October
Kepa Arrizabalaga last started for Chelsea against Southampton in the Premier League

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will make his first appearance since October in Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Krasnodar, says boss Frank Lampard.

Kepa, 26, has lost his number one spot to Edouard Mendy this season and sustained a shoulder injury in October.

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The Spain international has started only three Premier League games and has yet to appear in the Champions League this campaign.

“Kepa starts,” said Lampard.

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“It is about attitude and how you play, his situation now is different with Mendy’s form.

“But Kepa is training brilliantly well and acting brilliantly and I have no qualms about putting him back in.”

Kepa joined Chelsea from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 for £71m, a world record fee for a goalkeeper, but has struggled for consistency.

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He last played in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton on 17 October.

When asked if he is under any pressure to sell Kepa, Lampard said: “No, there’s no pressure. The pressure, and I’m not saying this has been spoken about, is to win games.

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“I have to do the right thing game by game of course and Mendy has made himself a permanent fixture at this point.”

Scotland Under-21s midfielder Billy Gilmour will also start at Stamford Bridge after recovering from knee surgery, but Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi are out with hamstring injuries.

Chelsea have already secured top spot in Group E with a game to spare after beating Sevilla 4-0 last week.

Russian side Krasnodar are guaranteed to finish third in the group so will move on to the Europa League.

Can Chelsea reach record points total? – The stats

  • Chelsea’s only previous meeting with FK Krasnodar was earlier in this season’s Uefa Champions League campaign, with Frank Lampard’s side winning 4-0 away from home.
  • Chelsea own a 100% record against Russian opposition in the Champions League, winning each of their five such games by an aggregate score of 13-1.
  • Victory for Chelsea would give them their highest ever points total in a single Champions League group stage (16), while they would be the fourth English team to gather such a high total after Arsenal in 2005-06 (losing finalists), Man Utd in 2007-08 (eventual winners) and Tottenham in 2017-18 (knocked out in last 16).
  • Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Olivier Giroud has scored 16 goals in major European competition, at least 10 more than any other Chelsea player.
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