The England international is under yet more scrutiny after a mix-up between himself and defender Matija Nastasic led to Chelsea’s late winner in Sunday’s Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge. It was the latest of a series of errors to have blighted the 26-year-old’s performances for club and country over the past year.
It would not be unusual in itself if Hart were to be replaced by Costel Pantilimon for the fourth-round tie at St James’ Park, as the Romanian has often been preferred for cup fixtures in the past two seasons.
But, given the increased speculation over Hart’s position — after previous mistakes against Scotland, Cardiff, Aston Villa and Bayern Munich this season — the match could give him the opportunity to stake a claim for a regular place.
Pantilimon, also 26, has not played in the Premier League since joining City from Timisoara in the summer of 2011 as replacement for Shay Given.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has declined to answer questions specifically relating to Hart after the Chelsea loss and has previously said he is not immune to the axe.
That suggests a good performance against the Magpies could earn Pantilimon the chance to start the Premier League game against Norwich at the Etihad Stadium at the weekend, although that remains to be seen.
City’s task at Newcastle will be to start rebuilding momentum after the last-gasp loss on Sunday. For all their brilliance at times this season — including their 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle when they met in August —their form has been inconsistent.
Defender Pablo Zabaleta sees the cup as a good opportunity to get back the winning feeling.
“The manager always tells us that we have the squad to challenge in everything and that he will always try to put a strong team to win every game,” said Zabaleta.
“The experience against Wigan (losing the FA Cup final last season) has made us more focused. This time the manager has told us that we must aim to win all four competitions that we are in. The manager always tells us we have the squad to challenge in everything and he will always try to put a strong team to win every game.
“I think that’s what you want to be aiming for when you want to be the best team.”
Pellegrini is expected to make further changes for what will be the club’s fourth away game in the space of 12 days. Striker Stevan Jovetic, who scored twice against Wigan in round three but has not started since, is likely to get another opportunity.
English trio Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and James Milner are also prime candidates to play.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has called on his side to put the derby defeat to Sunderland behind them by embracing the prospect of cup success.
“The derby was a really demanding game on the legs and on the emotions. We’re disappointed for the fans and ourselves,” said Pardew.
“But if we could beat Manchester City I think it would get people talking because then we’d be down to the last eight and it all becomes a bit serious then. I think any team in the Premier League can consider this a tournament they can win. For the Champions League clubs maybe it’s a little down on their agenda but it’s high on our agenda.”
Newcastle will be without defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor.