England keeper Joe Hart has been dropped by Manchester City for today’s home Premier League game against Norwich City.
Hart, 26, has been under pressure after a string of high-profile mistakes, the most recent of which came last Sunday when his gaffe gifted Chelsea striker Fernando Torres a last-gasp winner.
That error, combined with Costel Pantilimon’s performance in City’s midweek Capital One Cup win over Newcastle on Wednesday, has persuaded manager Manuel Pellegrini to opt for the Romanian today.
Pellegrini refused to be drawn on the Hart issue yesterday, saying only, “tomorrow you will know the 11 that starts”, but it is understood that Hart has been dropped.
Pellegrini also would not reveal how Hart had reacted to being left out of the Newcastle fixture.
“You must ask Joe — I can’t answer for him how disappointed he was,” Pellegrini said. “All of you, the players and me 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.”
Asked more specifically about Pantilimon, who was left out of Romania’s initial squad for their World Cup play-off against Greece later this month, Pellegrini said: “Every player in the squad has his right to play and I have to decide every week who will.
“Ask Costel maybe [about whether he feels he has earned his chance]. He does not play too often but I always see the players every day.
“I’m always talking with all the players, not only when they are in a bad moment — also when they are in a good moment. It is my duty to do it every week.”
City are sitting seventh in the Premier League, and Pellegrini has stressed the 18th-placed Canaries should not be underestimated.
The Chilean said: “If we think we will win easy, it is a great mistake. The team will be very conscious about that. We must do a very good game.’’
Of the pressure created by big-spending City’s mixed start to the campaign, which sees them currently six points behind leaders Arsenal after nine league games, Pellegrini — appointed over the summer — said: “It is not more pressure. This team always has the same pressure to win.
“We could be at the top of the table and we would have the same pressure. We are six points behind, but the team is playing the way I want.
“We still have 87 points to fight for so we are just starting. We are sure that the team will be soon at the top of the table.”
Norwich have had a tough start to the season and club captain Russell Martin has called on the senior players to stand up and be counted.
He said: “At present the results are not quite going for us, but within that group the senior players need to make their voices heard.
“We have to make sure we have that strong identity that, in my opinion, has meant no team has worked harder than us in the past when we go out on the pitch.
“That is what we need to get back to and if we do, we have more than enough quality to improve.”
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