Joe Hart pledges to fight for Man City place

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini and goalkeeper Joe Hart discuss tonight's Champions League clash with Roma. Picture: Getty
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini and goalkeeper Joe Hart discuss tonight's Champions League clash with Roma. Picture: Getty
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Joe Hart says he finds it “hard to see the positives” of being rested and is relishing the challenge of fighting for his place.

The England goalkeeper was replaced by summer signing Willy Caballero for Manchester City’s 4-2 win at Hull at the weekend, but is set to be recalled for the visit of Roma in the Champions League group stage match tonight.

Hart said last week he was in the dark over a new contract with City – his current deal has just under two years left to run – but says he wants to stay at the club for as long as he is welcome.

The 27-year-old was dropped last season after a run of errors, but reclaimed his place, and conceded he found it difficult to see any positives from being rested.

Hart said: “It is hard for me to see it that way. I am sure when I retire from football I will see them, but right now I am not going to see them. I want to play every game, that is my nature, my professionalism. I am not the manager, just a player. I live by the decisions of the manager.

“We have always had good goalkeepers, David James, [Andreas] Isaksson, Kasper [Schmeichel], [Costel] Pantilimon, it has always been a fight for me to keep my place and that will continue, but I have always had high standards that I will keep to, whether there is one goalkeeper or 20. I love the challenge.”

The match at the Etihad will see Hart come up against his former England team-mate Ashley Cole, who moved from Chelsea to Italy in the summer. Micah Richards, another City and England team-mate has also moved to Serie A with Fiorentina, but Hart said he had no urge to leave.

“I have got a lot of respect for the boys who have done, Micah being closest to home for me,” said Hart. “He seems to be loving it out there, but right now I am happy with what is going on at this club. We are fighting on all fronts. While I am welcome here, I am happy to stay.”

Neither Hart nor Manuel Pellegrini would be drawn on his contract situation, however, with the City manager stating: “Me and Joe know what happen with that issue. It is important but not the most important thing in this moment.”

Roma have begun the season in breathtaking form, winning all five of their Serie A games and thrashing Champions League group rivals CSKA Moscow 5-1. That heaps the pressure on City to get a win, especially after Pellegrini’s side conceded a last-minute winner to Bayern Munich in their opening European match. Hart said: “They [Roma] have been doing very well. Every game is tough in Champions League, but we are up for it.”

Late goals have proved costly for City in Europe, with Bayern, Barcelona last season and Real Madrid in 2012 all scoring late on to secure victories. Hart, however, says City can cope with the “big boys” of European football.

He said: “Of course, those have cost us the games in some big games, but also shown that we are definitely up there and can play with the big boys and we just need to finish the game off. We have always had tough groups in our brief Champions League history. We all understand you have to do well at home.”

Pellegrini pointed out that City lost their opening group match last season, also against Bayern, but went on to win all the other five and qualify from the group. He said: “It is normal pressure. Remember last year we start here against Bayern at home and we lost at home. But we lost the first game and won the other five games.”

Stefan Jovetic is back in the City squad after recovering from a hamstring injury but Fernando and Samir Nasri miss out.

Meanwhile, Didier Drogba did not travel with Chelsea for tonight’s Group G clash at Sporting Lisbon. The Blues trained at their Cobham training base yesterday morning before departing for Portugal without Drogba, whose absence was unexplained in the squad list posted on the Chelsea website.

Diego Costa travelled with manager Jose Mourinho hoping to field the striker despite his ongoing hamstring problems.

Drogba, who scored the 
decisive penalty in the 2012 European Cup final win before leaving Chelsea, started the opening 1-1 draw with Schalke in place of Costa, but the 36-year-old was a shadow of the player who dominated Premier League and European defences for eight years during his first spell.

Costa, meanwhile, has made a phenomenal start to his Chelsea career and netted his eighth goal in six Premier League games against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Ramires (groin) was the only other senior player not among the 20-man squad, with the Brazil midfielder likely out of 
Sunday’s Premier League clash with Arsenal.