January 29, 2017 12:48:51 pm
Wearing the number 13 jersey for Manchester City could be seen as underlining Willy Caballero’s status as the Premier League side’s reserve goalkeeper.
But the Argentine leaves nothing to chance, working hard to be ready when called upon to perform the few times he has turned out for the City team, generally in cup competitions.
He was rewarded with a League Cup winner’s medal last season after his penalty shootout heroics, with three saves against Liverpool, handed City the trophy.
City were comfortable 3-0 winners at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday, but only after Caballero made a reflex save to push away Palace’s first chance on target midway through the first half with the score 0-0.
“It’s happening to us a lot that the team dominates, has the ball and creates situations and (the opposition) rarely get close but then I had to react when they pressed us at a dead ball situation,” Caballero told Reuters.
“Luckily I was okay and it didn’t go in and that helped us to keep calm because going behind in the score makes things a lot harder.”
Manager Pep Guardiola said: “We didn’t take some of our early chances but that’s been happening all season. The important thing is we created a lot of chances, did score three goals and also kept a clean sheet.”
Caballero had hardly had any work until that chance that fell to Palace forward James Tomkins but he said he and first choice keeper Claudio Bravo work to prepare not to get caught cold in such situations.
“We’re used to it, we live for that… Opponents get through just once because our team plays better.”
Asked if he is beginning to feel there is a second domestic final coming up for him in the FA Cup this year, Caballero said: “No, there’s still a long way to go before that, a lot of steps to take.
“Let’s hope it happens but what’s important is that we won to change the team’s dynamics,” he said after City recorded their first win in their last three matches in all competitions.
Saturday’s match at an icy cold Selhurst Park — including a hailstorm in the second half — was only Caballero’s 11th of the season taking in Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League during which he has kept three clean sheets.
“You work throughout the week to be prepared for the matches you’re called upon to play. If you train badly you go into the matches with doubts. I try to make the most of every minute I play,” he said.
“Everyone wants to be in the first team but you have to accept the situation and keep working hard.”
Caballero’s compatriot Sergio Romero, a fellow resident of Manchester as a United reserve, sees even less action despite holding down the first choice place in Argentina team having won a national record 85 caps.
But he has not had a chance to compare notes with Romero on handling a lack of competitive action.
“We hardly see each other, Manchester is big and our times don’t coincide, (United) play on different days to us and the free time we have we spend with our families who are the ones that need us most because what hits you most in Manchester is the climate.
“(Romero’s) situation is a subject for long discussion. He’s earned respect and an important career in the national team which he hasn’t been able to reflect at his clubs,” Caballero said.
“As a goalkeeper, I wish he could …. play and show everyone how good one is.
“It’s a pity but let’s hope next year (he’ll get more chances to play), since it looks unlikely this season. He can play match after match and show all his qualities.”
Caballero denied he thought about trying to impress the Argentina selectors himself. “As a reserve I don’t focus on that, first I try to do things well and all that follows is welcome.”
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