The Citizens will welcome the Premier League leaders to the Etihad on Saturday for an encounter crucial to their title aspirations, trailing Arsene Wenger’s men by six points heading into the weekend.
In the background of the Manchester outfit’s successful campaign to date continues to the increasingly uncomfortable goalkeeping situation, as questions continue to surround Joe Hart’s viability for the future with a score of shot stoppers around Europe linked with a January move to the club.
The England international took the gloves for City’s inspired 3-2 comeback victory over Champions League title-holders Bayern Munich on Tuesday, just his second appearance since October 27, with reports suggesting that he’ll be handed his first start in domestic play since the same date at the weekend.
But manager Pellegrini has banished debate over a potential point of contention ahead of the contest with Arsenal by refusing to name his starting goalkeeper, whilst also taking a jab at transfer speculation surrounding City’s supposed hunt for a new number one in January.
"We will see tomorrow the 11 starters," the Chilean said on Friday.
"And, when the transfer window starts, you will have a lot of difficulties to know who the first-choice goalkeeper will be because we will have [Iker] Casillas, [Victor] Valdes, [Manuel] Neuer, [Willy] Caballero, [Asmir] Begovic.
"I think you will have to ask me about six new goalkeepers!"
His lampooning of the rumours surrounding the club don’t necessarily represent a commitment to Hart, who was recently advised by Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon to carefully consider his future in Manchester, but suggests that the Citizens may not be actively searching for a replacement at the level that has been purported.
Should the England international get the nod between the pipes it may signal that his second chance is on the way after a putrid start to the term, and it is likely that the 26-year-old has already discussed his situation with both Pellegrini and the club’s management.
Yet still, for now at least, Hart’s fate continues to be shrouded in mystery.
Indeed the choice to not spark off an unnecessary media frenzy in the build-up to the Citizens’ most important match to date was a sound one by the former Malaga boss, as Saturday’s line up will reveal plenty about the Chilean tactician’s intentions going forward with respect to Hart, and it is in the club’s best interest to put off speculation until then.
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