It was inevitable that Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart was going to be dropped; the question on everyone’s lips was ‘when’?
Hart, 26, has been under fire after a string of errors that have been deemed unacceptable. The most recent of which saw City lose to Chelsea 2-1 in the 90th minute last month.
This was the final straw for manager Manuel Pellegrini who saw fit to replace him with backup goalkeeper Costel Pantillimon for a Capital One Cup away fixture against Newcastle United and a Premier League game against Norwich City, last week.
A couple of decent saves kept Newcastle at bay, before City grabbed an extra time 2-0 win against Newcastle. The following match was more comfortable for Pantillimon as the Sky Blues thrashed Norwich 7-0 at the Etihad.
Now is the perfect time for Pellegrini to send a message to Hart that he means business, by selecting Pantillimon for tonight’s Champions League home game against CSKA Moscow. It is the perfect opportunity for the manager to make a statement to Hart and say “you must improve”.
City currently stands in 2nd place with six points, three behind Group D leaders Bayern Munich. A win for Moscow would put them level with City on points, therefore a win is vital for City.
Putting Pantilimon in the starting eleven will surely boost the Romanian’s vote of confidence from the manager. Hart will know that he has to fight for his place to regain his position at City’s number one. Pantilimon is a confident goalkeeper and is always ready to rise and meet the challenge, despite his lack of game time.
A 7-0 victory against Norwich is too comfortable for both Pantilimon and Hart. He needs to be properly tested. If Pantilimon puts in a solid performance against Moscow, England’s number one will know he has his work cut out. This will benefit him as it creates competition and can grind out some fight to regain his spot in Pellegrini’s side.