Mancini hands gloves to Hart for City's assault on Europa League

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The Independent Online

The Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, has confirmed that the goalkeeper Joe Hart will retain his place between the posts tonight in Romania. However, City will be without their summer signings, the Serbian Aleksandar Kolarov and the German international Jerome Boateng through injury for the first leg of their play-off match in the Europa League against FC Timisoara.

Hart was outstanding in the goalless draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday after being handed the jersey in preference to Shay Given. And Mancini sees no reason to change things, which could push the experienced Republic of Ireland international closer to the exit door.

"Joe Hart will play," Mancini said. "I had a difficult choice to make before the Spurs game because I have two world-class goalkeepers. It is difficult for one of them to sit on the bench. I respect Shay Given a lot. He is a good man and I want him to stay, but I also understand any decision he might make."

The former Lazio left-back Kolarov damaged his ankle ligaments at White Hart Lane and it is unclear how long he will be sidelined for. Boateng, who arrived from Hamburg, is likely to be out of action for a couple of weeks after the defender suffered a deep cut on the inside of his knee.

Mancini told the club's official website that he will freshen up his side. "I will make maybe two or three changes but we have the players that allow me to do that," he said. "I was pleased with the spirit and the fight at Tottenham. They are a good side that has been together for a long period of time.

"They were very good in the first half but we played well in the second and had 61 per cent of possession. To dominate the ball like we did was excellent. We still need time to gel as a unit – I only had all the players for one day before the match, so I want to see more of them in this tie."

Uefa confirmed this afternoon that the City striker Mario Balotelli has been registered in time to be available for the tie, following his transfer from Internazionale. That could spell bad news for Roque Santa Cruz, whose place in the City set-up at Eastlands looks weaker than ever.

The Paraguyan could be on his way south to West Ham United, who are thought to be willing to pay his £75,000-a-week wages. A source at Upton Park said: "The club want him on a 12-month loan with an option to buy next summer. We are keen to add a striker despite the financial restrictions."

Fulham, under new manager Mark Hughes, have also been linked with the striker.

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