Manchester City vs Roma: Tetchy Joe Hart fails to find any positives in being rested by Manuel Pellegrini

 

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The Independent Football

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart says he sees no benefits in manager Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to rest him for the last two domestic games ahead of tonight’s Champions League tie with Roma and has declined to discuss the fact that he has not been offered a new contract.

Sitting next to Pellegrini at Monday’s press conference, Hart, whose fine display in City’s opening match at Bayern Munich matched performances at Real Madrid and at home to Borussia Dortmund in the past three seasons, was twice offered the chance to discuss the “positives” of being rested in favour of Willy Caballero for City’s last two matches – the 7-0 League Cup defeat of Sheffield Wednesday and Saturday’s 4-2 league win at Hull City.

“Of course I want to play every game, that is my nature, my professionalism,” he initially said. “I am not the manager, just a player. I live by the decisions of the manager.”

But pressed on the “positives,” of being rested, he added: “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.”

It was an another awkward press-conference moment, and another one followed when Hart passed up the opportunity to discuss the prospects of him signing a new contract “soon” and instead turned to Pellegrini, sitting to his right, to encourage an answer.

“Me and Joe know what happens with that issue,” Pellegrini said. “It is important to know how to manage it, but it is not the most important thing now.” Asked how he responded, Hart muttered something unintelligible. Asked to repeat it, he said: “The same.”

The sense from within the club is that City anticipate no problems in agreeing new terms with Hart, despite the fact that his own current contract is now entering its final two years, while Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Sergio Aguero have been given new deals. However, the 27-year-old said that he was ready to meet the challenge of battling Caballero for a place in the team.

“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.”

Pellegrini indicated ahead of Tuesday night’s game that reaching the quarter-finals – rather than lifting the Champions League trophy – is City’s aim this season and that he will not jeopardise the club’s Premier League campaign by making the tournament his club’s  be-all and end-all.

“If we can fight for the Premier League title and get further in the Champions League, that would be progress,” said the Chilean, whose side were eliminated by Barcelona in the last-16 last year. “But if we have to leave behind the Premier League to win the Champions League, then for me that isn’t progress.

“It’s important to progress in the Champions League, but not by forgetting the domestic league. We won’t focus all we have on the Champions League and see what happens in the Premier League.”

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On Tuesday night, City will seek to win an opening home game in the group stage for the first time in four attempts against a Roma team who this season have won their opening six games in Serie A and the Champions League. Pellegrini will again be without the important defensive midfield presence of Brazilian Fernando while restoring Stevan Jovetic to the squad.

The manager discussed his European targets in an interview in Uefa’s Champions magazine, in which he also set a challenge for his Argentine striker Aguero to win the annual Ballon d’Or for the world’s outstanding player.

“Aguero is among the best players in the world,” said Pellegrini. “Now it is up to him to make it and fight for the Ballon d’Or as best player, because he has all the qualities you can ask of a football player.”

The manager also said that  City’s French midfielder Samir Nasri has undergone groin surgery in London and will be out of action for a month.

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