Manuel Pellegrini was joined by Joe Hart this afternoon for a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s hugely important game with Roma. After losing to Bayern in the first game in Group E, and with Roma battering CSKA Moscow in Rome, it’s vital City win this one. A defeat, it feels, would be disastrous.
Avoiding a last-day meeting with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico needing something from the game will be at the forefront of Pellegrini’s mind. He knows full well the Roma fans can create a poisonous atmosphere, and if we go there on Matchday 6 needing even a point, it could turn out to be an uncomfortable experience.
The presence of Hart at the press conference suggested he will return to the side after missing the wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Hull. Indeed, after Saturday’s 4-2 win at the KC Stadium, Pellegrini appeared to confirm Hart would play against Roma, yet today he was more guarded.
“The goalkeeper situation, it is not different to the other positions. Tomorrow we will the starting 11. Joe and me know who will play tomorrow,” the Chilean said.
Roma are in fine form. Five wins in five Serie A matches has seen them begin, along with Juventus, to breakaway from the rest of the division. Next weekend they face the Old Lady, the leaders, in a top-of-the-table match. They’re bound to have one eye on that game which will surely help City’s cause.
Daniele De Rossi is out, a huge boost given his enduring quality, but Roma still possess plenty of weapons, none more potent than Francesco Totti, a player I’m sure all City fans can’t wait to watch up close.
Pellegrini returns to the touchline after being forced to watch the Bayern game from the stands, unable to influence proceedings during the 90 minutes, and he feels it will benefit his side: “I don’t think we lost against Bayern because I was not on the touchline but it is important to be nearer the players. I hope tomorrow we can come together as manager and players to add points.”
He was also quick to praise this Roma’s start, complementing them on their early-season form and the excellence of their manager Rudi Garcia.
“I think about AS Roma, it is a very good team, not only because it is in a very good moment [having] played five games and won five,” he said. “Last year they were also a very good team and the manager Garcia, in the beginning it was his first year and maybe no one was sure exactly what he could do, but he started winning all the games and qualified his team for the Champions League.
“He is a very good manager and has a very good team with technical and fast players.”
Asked if he felt being omitted from the side for the last two matches brought any positives, Hart said he can’t see any, a brave move given his manager was sat inches away, but one which demonstrated clearly his desire to be first-choice.
“It is hard for me to see it that way. I am sure when I retire from football I will see them but right now I am not going to see them,” Hart said. “Of course I want to play every game, that is my nature, my professionalism. I am not the manager, just a player. I live by the decisions of the manager.”
Hart’s last Champions League appearance was his Man of the Match performance against Bayern, his best display since his wonder show against Dortmund in 2012. He will hope to take the confidence he gained from that match into this game and beyond.
He reaffirmed the belief he has in his own game and the desire to fight for supremacy with Willy Caballero. “We have always had good goalkeepers since I have been here going back to David James, [Andreas] Isaksson, Kasper [Schmeichel], Shay Given, [Costel] Pantilimon, Stuart Taylor it has always been a fight for me to keep my place and that will continue but I have got high standards that I like keep to, whether I am the only goalkeeper or one of 20,” he said defiantly.
“It excites me, the challenge, I love challenging for my place and I love playing and that will never change. I will continue fighting.”
His teammates will need to heed his words. They’ve all got a fight on their hands on Tuesday.
written by Rob Pollard