Man City Focus - Rough week with Hart out-of-sorts and tough Champions League draw
It has been a tough week for all concerned at Manchester City. First they demonstrated their defensive frailties without Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic against Cardiff on Sunday. Manuel Pellegrini watched his side go down 3-2 in the early season upset at the Cardiff City Stadium. Then it was revealed on Wednesday that they would be placed in pot three of the Champions League draw, meaning that they could find themselves in another group of death.
The draw pitted City against holders Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, so perhaps not a group of death but far from a guaranteed progression.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart meanwhile has seen his place in the Sky Blues team placed under growing scrutiny. Another poor performance on Sunday followed his uncharacteristically nervy outing for England against Scotland at Wembley.
The typically dependable stopper saw pressure growing on him when he could only manage to palm a shot which was struck straight at him by Kenny Miller into the net at Wembley. Then at the weekend he did little to appease his critics with an out-of-sorts performance. First he pulled off a good save but was unable to stop the rebound for the Welsh side’s first goal.
Hart then proceeded to get himself in a poor position and flap at the ball for Cardiff’s second goal, which saw Fraser Campbell convert his first of the game from close range to make it 2-1 to the hosts. He then looked lazy for the third goal as Campbell scored again from another set piece. Although Hart has been on top form for club and country for years, his performances of late have had him looking almost lethargic. It is a criticism he will not have had many times before, being typically an energetic player, but his performance on Sunday certainly was not the Hart of old.
The England ‘keeper’s recent form has had both his club and national managers looking at him. Many reports are now claiming that Hart could lose his place in the City team for their home game against Hull at the weekend, which would mean his chances of keeping his place in the national side would undoubtedly be damaged.
If Pellegrini were to side line the 26-year-old stopper then Costel Pantilimon would be his replacement. The Romanian, also 26, has seen his first team chances at the Etihad Stadium come few and far between, being restricted to cup games and the odd Premier League outing. With this being the case it is likely that the 6ft 8in ‘keeper, who wanted a move away from the club this summer, would grab this opportunity with both hands.
However, regardless of Hart’s performance, the defensive line laid out in front of him looked fragile in Wales with Javi Garcia partnering Joleon Lescott. The outing in Cardiff has now lead to wild speculation as to who Pellegrini will bring in to aid his defensive issues. One such rumour has seen the Daily Mail claim that the Chilean boss is ready to be reunited with Martin Demichelis.
The Atletico Madrid centre-back played under Pellegrini at Malaga and would cost City £3.5m. One stumbling block to the move though, is the fact that the 32-year-old was only brought in at the Vicente Calderon earlier this summer on a free transfer.
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