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22 Feb 2018

Arsenal vs Manchester City: Bravo and Ospina fight for redemption

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Domestically sneered, internationally revered

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Left back on the bench

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Remembered for all the wrong reasons

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Time is slipping away

(Photo credit: Santiago Times)

It is easy to forget the first-choice goalkeepers for Argentina, Chile and Colombia all play in England’s top flight. Or at least, they all are registered for playing in the Premier League. 

Between them, Claudio Bravo, David Ospina and Sergio Romero have zero league starts this season. At least Romero’s compatriot Wilfredo Caballero has enjoyed one start for champions Chelsea this season. 

Instead, the South American shot-stoppers have been deployed in domestic cup competitions and two will go head-to-head at Wembley this Sunday. 

Manchester City and Arsenal have confirmed that regular custodians Ederson and Petr Cech will play no part in the League Cup final, offering a rare opportunity for their understudies to play a key part in the showpiece.

Domestically sneered, internationally revered

Neither Bravo nor Ospina inspire confidence in either fan base as neither adapted smoothly to life in the Premier League. 

It is common for talented players to adapt to new cultures, languages and teammates and even more-so for goalkeepers, who are under the most scrutiny of all.  

Early criticism of David De Gea upon his arrival at Old Trafford indicates the importance of settling in quickly in a ‘sink or swim’ environment.

Yet between them, the two South Americans have amassed precisely 200 international caps for nations who have made their mark in recent years. 

Bravo has twice won the Copa America with Chile – twice keeping clean sheets in the final against Argentina, before being the penalty shootout hero – while Ospina has been an integral part of a Colombia side who impressed during the 2014 World Cup, which eventually earned him a move to the Emirates Stadium.

Left back on the bench

Initially signed with a view to being the club’s number one goalkeeper, the former Nice shot-stopper had to battle for the spot with Wojciech Szczęsny. 

A troublesome thigh injury restricted Ospina’s first-team opportunities and, when Cech arrived the following summer, his future at the club appeared to be short. 

Bravo arrived at City having won successive league titles with Barcelona and despite having never previously worked with him, was highly-praised by Pep Guardiola. 

However, City’s high-risk defensive display and the aerial threat posed by Premier League opponents often overwhelmed the Chile captain, who crumbled frequently under the pressure. 

Remembered for all the wrong reasons

High-profile errors in the Champions League – Ospina’s hapless own-goal against Olympiakos and Bravo’s capitulation in the Camp Nou, where he was sent-off in a 4-0 defeat – are perhaps what have defined their careers in England to date. 

Yet Ospina is clearly a highly-capable goalkeeper, having impressed both internationally and across six seasons with Nice. 

His performances – while at Arsenal – earned him a place on FIFA’s 2015 Ballon d’Or shortlist, while his performance in last season’s FA Cup triumph against Chelsea was a stellar one.

He will be aiming for similar glory on Sunday but, for Bravo, it will be a new experience in his City career. 

It will be his first and last appearance for the club at Wembley, having conceded the only shot on target as Wigan Athletic eliminated the runaway league leaders in the FA Cup fifth Round. 

There will be more scrutiny on the former Real Sociedad man than anyone else on the pitch and that has not gone in his favour in the last 18 months.

Time is slipping away

These two fine goalkeepers will go down in the history of their nations, while Bravo’s contributions will not be forgotten by Barcelona’s faithful. 

Time is slipping away for each to be remembered in England as anything but a flop, yet the chance of redemption gives Sunday’s encounter a particularly intriguing slant.

How do you think this battle of the goalkeepers will end? Let us know by commenting below.