Manchester City will omit Joe Hart for their FA Cup tie at Blackburn on Saturday -- but it is a sign that the England international has cemented his place as their first-choice goalkeeper.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has preferred to use the early rounds of the domestic cup competitions to give his reserve goalkeeper some game time. And he has confirmed that Costel Pantilimon will start at Ewood Park after Hart, who played against Leicester in the Capital One Cup, regained his place in the Premier League.
Pantilimon had played seven successive league fixtures before Hart was recalled against Fulham and he has featured in the last four matches. Pellegrini stated that he will pick Pantilimon, saying: “Yes, he will play.”
He insisted the Romanian produced the right reaction to being dropped, adding: “[He responded] very well, without any problem. It was very useful for him to play seven games in the league. He has not done it before. He is working well, so I trust in his performance.”
City will again be without top scorer Sergio Aguero, who has sat out their last five fixtures since injuring his calf in December’s 6-3 win over Arsenal.
The Argentine is set to miss Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against West Ham but Pellegrini said the striker will return in January.
“I don’t know about next week but, at least, before the end of the month, sure,” he added.