Manuel Pellegrini piles the pressure on Manchester City ‘keeper Joe Hart

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Following Manchester City’s 3-2 defeat to Cardiff City last Sunday, new manager Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t been pointing the finger of blame at his players.

But ahead of City’s clash with Hull City on Saturday, (7:45am ET, watch live on NBCSN and via NBC Sports Live Extra) he has been speaking about City’s goalkeeper Joe Hart.

England’s no. 1 has had a shaky few weeks for his country and for City, with noticeable mistakes creeping into the 26-year-old ‘keepers play. So at a time like this you would expect the full support of your manager to help you get through that sticky patch… right?

Not so much.

“For the moment Joe will continue being our goalkeeper,” Pellegrini said. “But I know and I spoke with him and he knows he must be quickly in the best shape again – his top form. I think he is a top goalkeeper. I’m sure that he will do it again.”

So, not exactly a rousing seal of approval from the 59-year-old Chilean manager. But with the former Real Madrid, Malaga, River Plate and Villarreal manager still trying to establish himself as the authority figure at City, what did you expect?

Hart should have done better with Fraizer Campbell’s first goal that put Cardiff 2-1 up last Sunday, he misjudged a corner that allowed the Cardiff striker to score at the back post. And just over a week before that he was at fault for Scotland’s opener at Wembley as James Morrison’s routine shot squirmed underneath him.

(MORE: Expect Joe Hart to get more scrutiny after his performance against Cardiff City)

This alarming trend has continued for quite some time now, and Hart’s slump is entering months rather than weeks. This season is Hart’s seventh as a regular in the Premier League and Pellegrini has perhaps found a reason why he’s been struggling of late.

“He is a young goalkeeper who has arrived at the top maybe too young. He needs to improve a lot and Xabier Mancisidor [City’s new goalkeeping coach] will improve it,” Pellegrini said. “For a goalkeeper 22 or 23 is young [Hart’s age when he established himself]. But he has the quality to do it. That’s why he’s the No1 in England. We have all the trust in him and he will also be critical of what he’s doing and he will improve.”

Pellegrini is confident Hart will regain his best form and these comments are nothing but a subtle kick up the backside to help the England international reach the top once again. Hart will be doing that himself, often the camera pans to him during the game to reveal plenty of sour expressions emblazoned across his face.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

Even though Hart has suffered some high-profile errors of late he still made an incredible double save from a Ronaldinho penalty during a friendly last February, as England sealed their first win over Brazil in 23 years and Hart was lauded for his performance. He’s young for an international goalkeeper but struggles like the mini-slump he’s going through at the moment will more than likely make him a better ‘keeper.

But the most important factor to come out of Pellegrini’s comments on Hart is that he’s working under a new goalkeeping coach. Many will know that for a ‘keeper, familiarity breeds success. Having your routine changed and altered after years of working with the same coach can, at first, have a negative effect as you adapt to new training methods. But in the long run it should make Hart even better.

City and England hope so.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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EFL Cup Rewind: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET