Chelsea boss Frank Lampard maintains Kepa Arrizabalaga has not necessarily played his last game for the club – and will continue to protect the goalkeeper when needed.
Lampard confirmed new signing Edouard Mendy is in contention to make his debut against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday.
Kepa found himself back on the bench for the 3-3 Premier League draw at West Brom, where Willy Caballero was in goal as the Blues recovered from 3-0 down at the break to salvage a point through Tammy Abraham’s stoppage-time equaliser.
Lampard, however, rejected suggestions the 25-year-old Spaniard – signed for a club-record £71million from Athletic Bilbao in August 2018 – was now surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge.
Asked if Kepa had potentially made his final appearance for the Blues, Lampard said: “I certainly won’t go to the point that he has played his last game for Chelsea.
“I think it has been a difficult time for Kepa, that has been well documented, I know it and he knows it, but we should certainly not jump to that conclusion.
“Also I think, which I have felt quite strongly about in the last week, is also understanding Kepa is a young man and the spotlight on him, I think, has become slightly unfair.
“I have to protect him because I know he is a good lad and playing with absolute professionalism and intent to do the best that he can, as all the squad have to.”
German defender Antonio Rudiger has not featured this season, but again Lampard stressed nothing had yet been decided.
“I wouldn’t assume anything and I wouldn’t assume (anything about) Antonio or any players in the squad,” the Chelsea manager said.
“We are not there until next Monday when the window shuts, so other than that, I would make no assumptions.”
Mendy was not available for the West Brom game, but Lampard has been impressed by the efforts of the Senegal international, 28, since arriving in west London.
“It is all very positive from the early signs and interactions, just as a man on the training pitch,” Lampard added.
“He has settled very well in the first few days and we have made him feel welcome as always. It is competition.
“He is a good goalkeeper and we know a lot about him, so we will see how we go.”
Jose Mourinho is set to utilise his Tottenham squad as they prepare for a run of three games in five days.
Lampard, though, feels whatever team both sides put out will still present a stern challenge.
“I know it is a busy time for Tottenham because of the Europa League, it is a busy time for us all,” said Lampard.
“When I analyse Tottenham and know the squad they have, and analyse what might be a team which didn’t play 90 minutes (against Newcastle) yesterday, they have a fantastic squad.
“I feel any squad Jose puts out can be very strong.
“We all know for teams like ourselves and Tottenham that are challenging for top four and Champions League, then the Carabao Cup does have its place.
“But we will certainly respect it and every tournament we go in we will try and win.”
Victor Moses, meanwhile, is back with Chelsea following his loan spell at Inter Milan, but as yet is not training within the first-team squad bubble.