The goalkeepers could be key in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. But who will play? And who will come out on top?
Wembley is set to host the battle of the domestic cup goalkeepers when Manchester City face Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final, a game which will likely see Claudio Bravo start for City and David Ospina play for the Gunners.
Bravo has become the League Cup custodian for Manchester City this season, following his underwhelming start to life in England after joining from Barcelona in the summer of 2016. The experienced Chilean has been crucial in the penalty shootout wins over Wolves and Leicester but the weaknesses which saw him ousted in the summer also come to the fore.
Arsenal vs Man City
February 25, 2018, 3:30pm
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Ospina has played all but one of Arsenal’s Carabao Cup games, being replaced by Matt Macey for the win over Norwich in the fourth round due to injury. The Colombian has only conceded once in the competition this season, an Eden Hazard strike in the semi-final. In regularly youthful teams Ospina has been a calming influence, helped by the fact he plays in the Europa League with the back-up defence.
Out of practice?
A lack of games for Bravo has resulted in an unnerving look when he’s been between the sticks for City as he suffered from a lack of confidence and often being exposed by his defence. The former Barcelona man has reacted well to make a number of instinctive saves, especially when taking Wolves to a shootout. He also accepts that he is now calmer and less on edge as he was during his first campaign in England. Bravo has still let in five goals during the Carabao Cup campaign.
Following the win over Wolves, Pep Guardiola praised his goalkeeper. He said: “In the special moments, Claudio was outstanding. He was determined in terms of when you are one-on-one with him and then the penalties he saved two, so he was man of the match by far.” The manager’s words signify the support he has for his second choice.
Unlike Bravo, Ospina has one Premier League start to his name, playing in the recent 5-1 home win over Everton. The Chilean’s league experience this season also saw him being relatively untested, only replacing Ederson following his clash with Sadio Mane as City defeated Liverpool 5-0.
It is a tough role being the cup goalkeeper as they are forced to play behind a defence not used to operating as a unit, which give reasons for their indifference in these games. However, many would argue players of their experience should be a reassurance to the likes of Rob Holding or Tosin Adarabioyo.
Questions still remain over Bravo’s competence when it comes to dealing with crosses as his eagerness to come to punch is not matched by his ability to catch or clear the danger with a punch, ensuring fans are still unnerved by a man with 119 caps for his country.
Bravo can rely on his quick reactions to allow him to make some spectacular saves when called upon but it does not seem enough to show he could be first choice once again. He was brought in for his distribution but is unable to compete with Ederson’s range of passing, not that it surprises many as the Brazilian is above almost everyone in the game in that department.
Fellow South American goalkeeper Ospina, despite his good record, has not been the steady man his statistics might indicate. In both legs of the semi-final he was questioned by crosses and his tentative nature when coming to collect meant he struggled to make his mark. Even when he conceded Hazard’s opener at the Emirates, many thought he should have done better with the effort.
Revert to first choice?
It is unlikely, but either Pep Guardiola or Arsene Wenger could go for their regular No1s due to the importance of occasion at Wembley. Guardiola has stuck with Bravo throughout the domestic cups, so it would be a surprise if he were to drop him for Sunday. However, Ederson has proven himself to be the far superior shot-stopper and the importance for Guardiola to take some silverware back to Manchester might give him a few second thoughts on this occasion.
When City won the competition in 2016 it was their reserve goalkeeper Willy Caballero who was the difference in the penalty shootout win over Liverpool, so Guardiola will be hoping Bravo can have a similar impact.
Petr Cech has shown signs of decline this season with many questioning his overall status as Arsenal’s No1. Wenger is even less likely to make the change as Ospina is being entrusted in the Europa League to tend goal, so does not to relent when it comes to trusting the Colombian.
Wenger has been in this position before, sticking with Ospina in the FA Cup final last season, which saw him at fault for Chelsea’s goal, but it did not cost Arsenal in the end as they went on to lift the trophy. So withdrawing his support for the Colombia international would be seen as a huge blow to his overall confidence, especially if he is needed to replace Cech later in the campaign.
Which goalkeeper will be used and who will come out on top on Sunday? If you are using skysports.com, you can comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click ‘Report’.
Watch the Carabao Cup final live on Sky Sports from 3.30pm on Sunday, February 25