The contest to be Spain’s No.1 has created a healthy rivalry between the Chelsea and Man Utd goalkeepers, says the Blues star
Kepa Arrizabalaga insisted his relationship with Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea remains strong as the pair compete to be first choice for Spain in their forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Chelsea shot-stopper Kepa got the nod from Spain head coach Luis Enrique in two of Spain’s last four internationals, and he kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Malta and a 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
De Gea, who at 28 is four years Kepa’s senior, was Spain’s first choice at the 2018 World Cup and played the duration of all 38 of Manchester United’s Premier League matches last season.
Luis Enrique also has Real Betis’ Pau Lopez at his disposal for Spain’s qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Sweden, and Kepa said there is healthy competition in the squad.
“There are three goalkeepers in the squad,” said Kepa. “We have all been called up by Luis Enrique and we all want to play. We train hard and then it is the coach who decides.
“My relationship with De Gea is very good, we have worked well together. In addition to competing, we usually talk on the phone. We have a fluid relationship.”
After a tumultuous 2018 that saw Spain crash out of the World Cup at the hands of Russia in the round of 16, Luis Enrique’s men are unbeaten since the turn of the year having beaten Norway and Malta in their last two Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Kepa admitted that the forthcoming games fall at an awkward time, with many of Spain’s players having had only a short break following the end of their domestic seasons, and said the artificial turf at Tosvollur Stadium in the Faroe Islands could make life difficult for Enrique’s men.
“Sweden and the Faroe Islands have a similar profile,” said Kepa. “We assume that Sweden is going to be more difficult, but the conditions that we are going to find [in the Faroe Islands], with artificial turf, will hinder the game.
“We have two important matches that may not come at the best time, but our goal is to reach Euro 2020. The team is confident and we will do the best we can.”
Turning his attention to Chelsea, Kepa insisted both he and manager Maurizio Sarri had moved past the incident that saw them publicly fall out during the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
Kepa refused to be substituted during the Wembley showpiece, and the former Athletic Bilbao man admitted it was a decision he regretted, but said Chelsea’s Europa League triumph had helped to bury the bad memory.
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“It has been several months now,” said Kepa. “It’s true, that was a bad week for me. Of course it was a day I’m not proud of.
“I said sorry to him and from then on our relationship has been very good, like it was before. I’ve kept his confidence, we’ve accomplished our targets and I think our season was very positive.
“It has been a step forward in my career in every sense [moving to Chelsea]. I’ve had a lot of games, we accomplished our targets for the season and now, looking backwards, I think it has been a positive year.”