Joe Hart has said he will be “man enough” to accept being dropped for a Wembley final. The England goalkeeper is likely to make way for Costel Pantilimon for the Capital One Cup final, just as he replaced the Romanian for last year’s FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic.
Manuel Pellegrini revealed that he has already decided who will keep goal against Sunderland tomorrow and the indications are that it will be Pantilimon, who has played in every round bar the 3-1 win at Leicester City in December – when he rather than Hart was first choice for City’s league games.
“You have to be able to accept when you are playing or not,” Hart told BBC’s Football Focus. “When managers have got decisions to make – whether it benefits me or not – I have to be man enough to take it. I work hard every day to win and I understand it doesn’t always go my way. You have to move forward.”
Last season Pantilimon had been slated to start the FA Cup Final, having played in every round, but was dropped by Roberto Mancini following an interview in which he said he would be looking to leave the club. In the event, he lasted longer than his manager, who was sacked immediately after the 1-0 defeat which saw Manchester City fans, outraged by the prospect of his dismissal, chant: “You can stick your Pellegrini up your arse”.
“I hope the songs have changed,” said Pellegrini yesterday. The Chilean will be attempting to win his first trophy since leaving South America to coach in Europe a decade ago. “I know what happened last year and I think Mancini deserved the support of the fans because he won Manchester City’s first title in 44 years.”
With William Hill offering odds of 8-1 on, Manchester City, reinforced by the return of Sergio Aguero, are the biggest favourites yet to contest a Wembley final. The previous hottest favourites were Chelsea, who were 6-1 on to beat an already-relegated Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup final, and City themselves against Wigan last season.
For Samir Nasri, this is something of an omen. Should Sunderland win the Capital One Cup and be relegated, it will be the third successive time Nasri will have lost a Wembley final to a club on its way down. He pointed out that Arsenal’s defeat to Birmingham City in the League Cup final in 2011 saw their league form collapse.
“Both are equally painful,” said Nasri. “I cannot choose one over the other. The thing is I lost two finals against teams who went down. We were clear favourites. You go back home and you play the game in your head again and it is difficult to understand.”