After two successive defeats which saw six goals conceded, Manchester City face Everton at the Etihad on Saturday looking to get back on track before the international break.
Joe Hart has come under intense scrutiny after his poor form continued in the defeats to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich. Speaking at his pre-match press conference at City’s Carrington training complex, Manuel Pellegrini insisted that Hart has the trust of the City staff but says he must improve his performances.
“Of course he feels that he didn’t do very well (against Bayern Munich), but I think he doesn’t have any problem. He is continuing with the team, and with our trust we hope he will recover from the game,” said Pellegrini.
“After the game I always speak with all the players. I spoke with Joe and we analysed what we did in the game.
“Joe knows he must improve the way he is playing, but he knows he has our trust.”
I wrote yesterday about Hart’s deterioration and how City would have been sensible to bring in an experienced goalkeeper to put pressure on him. Iker Casillas has been linked with City, with Pablo Zabaleta telling Spanish paper Marca that he isn’t needed (h/t Mirror), but a January move for a goalkeeper would surprise very few.
Julio Cesar, who remarkably is still at QPR, would be perfect. At 34, he would be happy to sign on a short-term deal and has the experience and ability to provide Hart with some much-needed competition. He’s currently out with a broken finger but will return to fitness in a few weeks' time. Harry Redknapp appears to have settled on Rob Green as his No. 1, and with the World Cup nearing, a January move to City could be sensible for all parties.
Hart has between now and the window reopening to prove to Pellegrini that he is back to the level required to be City’s first-choice goalkeeper.
City’s away form in the league is also a concern, and Pellegrini says they have to improve if they want to win the title.
“If you want to win the Premier League you cant just get one point from three away games. We go to London for two games after Everton and we must make up for it."
Everton will certainly be no easy game for City. They are the only unbeaten side in the Premier League, and in Romelu Lukaku, inexplicably loaned to Roberto Martinez’s side by Chelsea, they have one of the best young strikers in the country. Pellegrini said he believes “Everton are always a difficult team.”
Their first-half showing against Newcastle on Monday night was outstanding. They found themselves 3-0 up inside 40 minutes and now lie fourth in the table. The one major plus for City is the absence of Everton's Gareth Barry, who can’t play due to the terms of his loan agreement. Everyone at City knows just how good he is.
Pellegrini confirmed that Jack Rodwell is back in full training now but isn’t match-fit and therefore won’t be considered for the Everton game, while Stevan Jovetic remains sidelined.
“Jack just started working with the whole squad yesterday. He is fit, but he will not be included tomorrow,” he said.
“Everybody else is fit, apart from Jovetic, who has a couple of small problems.”
Manchester City play Everton on Saturday 5 October at 12:45 BST.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.