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Manchester City v Wigan Athletic: Preview
Published : 04 Mar 2011 20:39:16
Joe Hart insists he is not in need of a rest despite being left to shoulder the burden of Manchester City's quest for glory.
Although Hart was confirmed as the Blues number one keeper by Roberto Mancini, the 23-year-old always knew Shay Given was on hand to take some of the strain should City's punishing schedule get too much.
However, the safety net disappeared when Given was forced to undergo shoulder surgery that will keep him out for much of the campaign.
Mancini has opted not to bring in an emergency replacement so, with doubts persisting over Stuart Taylor, the Italian is relying on Hart staying fit.
The England star has now notched up 18 successive appearances for City, a run that will be extended against Wigan at Eastlands.
Hart does have youth on his side, though and is adamant there is no way he wants to stand down from the busiest season of his fledgling career.
"I am not interested in having a break," said Hart. "I love playing. It is great to have all these games and I am happy to do it."
Hart does accept it can be draining mentally at times.
However, he does not view his situation as being comparable with his outfield colleagues, who have to counter physical fatigue as well.
"Mentally it is a little bit draining but as soon as the game starts that all goes out of the window," he said.
"It is like the start of a game where you have been injured all week. Suddenly the injury is gone. It is the excitement of playing.
"It is the busiest season of my career. But I just turn up and play.
"Every time I get the chance I am happy to see my name on the team-sheet. It is not like I am running 15km like some of the lads.
"I am just trying to keep as fresh and sparky as I can."
Kolo Toure will be the notable absentee for the clash.
The Ivorian is suspended indefinitely pending a full inquiry into his failed drugs test and under Football Association rules will not be considered until the case is resolved.
Vincent Kompany is expected to return in central defence following a hip problem, while Nigel de Jong may be fit to claim a place on the bench after a six-game absence with an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez will not compromise his footballing philosophy - but wants it executed better as the relegation battle hots up.
Wigan slumped to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League as they were thrashed 4-0 by Manchester United in a controversial game at the DW Stadium last week.
Throughout a difficult season Latics have tried to play a style pleasing on the eye, but their lack of a regular goalscorer and a shaky defence have cost them.
Some critics have said Martinez urgently needs to rethink his tactics but the Spaniard is convinced his methods well yet prove correct.
Martinez said: "I think the manner we believe football has to be played is quite clear.
"What is important is you play in that manner well enough to win football games.
"We have been playing really well - I think you are starting to see a team that has got that chemistry and understanding between them.
"Yes, there are certain aspects we need to improve. That is quite clear.
"But I think the positives are bigger than the little aspects we need to improve.
"Now is a real test of character and a challenge we have to enjoy.
"Yes, it is a real fight and we will need to work really hard to stay in the Barclays Premier League, but we are going to do it with style."
Defender Emmerson Boyce is Wigan's only major absentee for the trip to Eastlands.
Boyce has been plagued by hamstring trouble this season and could also miss the next game against Birmingham in a fortnight's time.
On-loan midfielder Tom Cleverley is back in contention after being ineligible to face parent club Manchester United last weekend and January signing Connor Sammon could make his debut.