Pellegrini backs Man City keeper Hart
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini continues to back Joe Hart but has warned the goalkeeper he is not immune from the axe.
Hart's form is again under scrutiny after two errors in City's 3-1 Champions League hammering by Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night. The England number one failed to keep out a saveable Franck Ribery shot for the Germans' opener and was beaten too easily at his near post by Arjen Robben for the European champions' third.
There were the latest in a growing series of mistakes by Hart in an indifferent run now stretching back almost a year. When asked if Hart could be dropped for City's home game against Everton in the Premier League this weekend, Pellegrini was equivocal.
Pellegrini said: "I will decide on Saturday if he starts. I don't tell you now if Joe will play because the players don't know yet. Of course Joe knows he must improve the way he is playing but he has our trust." When asked further Pellegrini, speaking at his pre-Everton press conference, said: "I am always contemplating different things. I will decide."
Hart has received the full support of England manager Roy Hodgson, who has said the keeper will play in the vital upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland. Pellegrini is also supportive and is confident the 26-year-old will bounce back.
He said: "Of course, he feels that he didn't do very well but I think he doesn't have any problem. He continues with the trust of all the team and with our trust so we hope he will recover soon from what he did last match."
One of the criticisms leveled at both City and England is that there is a lack of serious competition for the goalkeeper's jersey. From City's point of view, Pellegrini does not agree, insisting Romanian Costel Pantilimon is a viable alternative. He said: "Costel Pantilimon is a very good goalkeeper also, he has all the rights to play. He is working hard and I am absolutely sure, if it is Saturday or another game and he must play, he will do well."
Danny Mills has also backed Hodgson's handling of Joe Hart and says Roberto Mancini put a "massive dent" in his keeper's confidence last season.
Former England defender Mills told Sky Sports News Radio that Hodgson was "exactly right" to give his number one a public vote of confidence on Thursday, despite calls for the 26-year-old to be dropped by club and country.
Hodgson's reassurance for Hart is in direct contrast to the approach former City boss Roberto Mancini employed last season, and Mills believes Hart is still struggling to regain his confidence, despite the Italian's dismissal in the summer. Mills, a former teammate of Hart, said: "I don't think the public criticism he got from Mancini last season has helped. That undermined his goalkeeper hugely and put a massive dent in Joe's confidence.
Mills added: "I don't think it is right at all to drop him and Roy Hodgson has got that exactly right. It would be ludicrous to drop him as number one for these two games. I don't believe Manuel Pellegrini will drop him just yet. I think he still has a few mistakes (before that happens) and I'm not sure Costel Pantilimon is good enough long-term to replace Hart.
"Look what happened to David de Gea last year. He made lots of mistakes, came in and out of the side but Sir Alex Ferguson stuck with him. Now he is considered a great keeper. It's just a dip in form for Hart. He's made one or two mistakes that of course he doesn't want to make, but I'm sure he's going to bounce back."
Listen to Sky Sports News Radio's interview with Mills, in which the ex-City full-back gives an insight into his former team-mate's character and how City can help Hart get back to his best.