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Friday 21 September 2018

Pellegrini keeps cards close to his chest on Hart call

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart

Manchester CITY boss Manuel Pellegrini has kept his cards firmly to his chest with regard to under-fire goalkeeper Joe Hart's chances of playing in today's Premier League clash at home to Norwich.

England number one Hart's error which led to Chelsea's winner in City's 2-1 league defeat at Stamford Bridge last Sunday was the latest in a series of high-profile blunders made by the 26-year-old for club and country.

He was replaced for Wednesday's League Cup fourth-round tie at Newcastle by Romania 'keeper Costel Pantilimon, who has become City's regular goalkeeper for domestic cup competitions since joining them in the summer of 2011 and was fairly impressive in a 2-0 extra-time win.

If Pellegrini opts to stick with that selection for the Norwich contest, it will be Pantilimon's first Premier League appearance.

Various commentators have had their say on Hart's form and the manager must decide whether dropping him in the league will protect him from the limelight or further knock his confidence, but Pellegrini was giving little away on the matter at his pre-match press conference yesterday.

Asked if Hart (above) would be returning to the team for the Norwich game, the Chilean said: "Tomorrow you will know the answer."

Then asked whether it was a difficult decision, he said: "It is a decision I have to take every week with 22 players."

Pellegrini would not be drawn on how Hart had reacted to the decision to drop him for the Newcastle fixture.

"You must ask Joe – I can't answer for him how disappointed he was," Pellegrini said.

"All of you and the players and me all saw what happened.

"But he is a football player and every week he is under the same pressure.

"I am always very careful with all the players, not only Joe."

What is certain about City's team for the Norwich contest is that it will not feature Stevan Jovetic (calf), Javi Garcia (unspecified) – who both picked up injuries in the Newcastle game – or Vincent Kompany.

City skipper Kompany has missed the last four matches due to a thigh problem, and regarding the Belgium defender, Pellegrini said: "Vincent is progressing but I think it will be after the international break maybe that he will be fit – before that I think is difficult.

"He is a very important player but I think we have a strong squad just for this case. Other players can play.

"We played the last five matches (Kompany's last appearance was when he came off in the first half of the victory over Everton on October 5), won four and lost just one against Chelsea, and I think we deserved more.

"So he is always an important player, but I think we can play also without him."

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