England keeper, Joe Hart has been dropped by Manchester City for Saturday’s Premier League game at home to Norwich City.
Hart, 26, has been under pressure after a string of high-profile mistakes, the last of which cost City two points in their 2-1 defeat by Chelsea on Sunday.
And Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has decided Hart’s understudy Costel Pantilimon will play. The Romanian also played in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup win against Newcastle.
Pellegrini refused to be drawn on the Hart issue at his news conference on Friday, saying only, “tomorrow [Saturday] you will know the XI that starts”, but it is understood that Hart has been dropped.
Pantilimon was expected to come into the Blues side for the League Cup tie at St James’ Park, having played in the previous round.
But the 26-year-old did his cause no harm with a fine stop to deny Shola Ameobi in the first half and another to thwart Papiss Cisse in extra-time.
Hart has been criticised after a number of errors, most notably in City’s game against Bayern Munich in the Champions League earlier in October and in England’s victory over Scotland at Wembley in August.
Pellegrini admitted last month that he had considered dropping Hart, 26, for City’s home victory over Everton – a game where Everton took the lead before losing 3-1.
“It wasn’t a simple decision [to play Hart]. It was a very difficult decision,” Pellegrini said after the win. But I think Joe needs the trust of all us, from me, the other players, the fans.”
Earlier on Friday, City midfielder Yaya Toure admitted that Hart was going through a tough time. “Joe Hart is very fantastic. He is doing very well, he is quiet, trying to concentrate and focus on his game,” said Toure.
“When you see the game we played against CSKA Moscow, he saved a fantastic goal, but everybody can’t be perfect all the time because you can do some mistakes. Even I make mistakes but most important, we have to keep him going, all the team mates are giving him support.
“We know it’s difficult for him, with the experienced players we have as team mates all the time try to give him confidence.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez said he believed the move was to protect Hart.
“Joe Hart is a fantastic goalkeeper but every player in the world goes through good moments and bad moments of football,” Martinez told BBC Radio 5 live.
“The manager can protect the player. But it’s not just about dropping him, it’s also about giving the opportunity to another player and helping Hart get back to his best.
“He’s taking him out of the firing line. It’s unfair Joe is under so much scrutiny”.