Shay Given was last night contemplating having to cede his Europa League place to Joe Hart, but remains no less positive towards the Englishman who, despite his indifferent form, has left him without a look-in at Manchester City.
Given who, having started only four games – three in Europe and one in the League Cup – is only 50/50 to get the nod from Roberto Mancini as City resume their European campaign at Aris Thessaloniki of Greece. That seems hard on Given, with the concentration levels of the goalkeeper 11 years his junior being questioned by Mancini and his England counterpart Fabio Capello. But Given said he was prepared to help Hart. "Well possibly [yes]," said Given. "He is a young guy and young in goalkeeping terms as well. You know, he doesn't pick the team, it's the manager who does. So you would like to think you would help him in any way. He'll learn. You know, I made mistakes in my career. You learn from making mistakes, and you become a stronger and better goalkeeper. Joe will be the same."
If Mancini does select Given for his first start since City signed off their group stage campaign at Juventus on 16 December, the 34-year-old will be conscious that his lack of competitive action presents an extra level of difficulty for himself. "I don't think worry is the word you're looking for, [but] it's not ideal," he said. "But you've got to play with the hand you've been dealt. That's the situation I'm in and there's nothing I can do to change that. I'm not a young keeper but I've played a good few games in my career and I'd like to think I can call on that experience to get me through a difficult period, obviously."
Mancini may field a fairly strong side, as Aris look to maintain a 40-year, 24-match unbeaten home run in Uefa club competition. Their side presents only one familiar character to City – Nery Castillo, the Mexican known as el Diablo who stumped up half the £3m loan fee to join Sven Goran Eriksson at Eastlands from Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2007/8 season.
Mancini, whose side will take on the winners of Besiktas and Dynamo Kiev if they progress, has taken Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli to Greece's second city and Michael Johnson – who has been out of first-team football since a training ground injury 14 months ago. Balotelli and Johnson are unlikely to feature. James Milner misses the first leg game with a hamstring injury sustained in Saturday's Manchester derby and Nigel de Jong's ankle prolongs his absence.
"I've been working and training harder than normal ... because I don't have to save myself for games, I suppose. I like to think I'll be a little bit stronger and better in [match] situations," Given concluded.
Manchester City (possible, 4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, K Touré, Boateng, Zabaleta; Barry, Vieira; Wright-Phillips, Y Touré, Jo; Dzeko.
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