Pellegrini undecided if Joe Hart will keep his place in goal

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Despite backing his star goalkeeper, a major dip in form has seen the Chilean boss of Manchester City admit he is unsure whether Joe Hart or backup Costel Pantillimon will start the upcoming match against Everton Saturday.

The oft-brilliant but mistake-prone Hart was more the latter in the midweek tie against Bayern Munich, and that could prove to be the icing on the cake for a change between the sticks.

The English number-one’s performance against Bayern wasn’t fraught with glaring mistakes, but for a man with such a world-class reputation all three goals against the defending champions were clearly results he could have prevented with better positioning and quicker reactions.

(MORE: Bayern Munich brilliance, Joe Hart follies see Manchester City fall, 3-1)

This has led his manager Manuel Pellegrini to defend his first-choice (for now) keeper’s ability, but also admitted there’s a chance he may lose his place.

“I will decide tomorrow (Saturday) if he starts” Pellegrini told Sky Sports. “I don’t tell you now if Joe will play because the players don’t know yet, I am always contemplating different things. Of course Joe knows he must improve the way he is playing but he has our trust. Tomorrow I will decide.”

Pellegrini maintained that despite the errors, Hart has the backing of not just the manager, but the entire squad.

“Of course, he feels that he didn’t do very well but I think he doesn’t have any problem. He continues with the trust of all the team and with our trust so we hope he will recover soon from what he did last match. The three goals we conceded against Bayern Munich were not only Joe Hart’s responsibility for what happened.”

Many have criticized the City squad for not having someone to challenge Hart enough.  Pantillimon has not made an appearance in the Premier League during his two seasons backing up Hart.

Yesterday, England manager Roy Hodgson firmly stood behind Hart as his first-choice goalkeeper, stating strongly, “I’m not blind so I do realize this is not a good moment for Joe. He’s a proud man and a very good goalkeeper, so when he’s criticized he’s very unhappy. But I still believe in Joe Hart. I have faith in him and strongly believe he won’t let England down and he’ll play well. He’s never let me or the team down in my time during my 18 months here, and I’ve every faith he’ll have the confidence to put this behind him. He’ll come through the games, get us through and put that bad form behind him.”

Men in Blazers: Jurgen Klopp talks loss of Coutinho and more

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Roger Bennett talks with manager Jurgen Klopp about revolutionizing Liverpool, his Greatest Show on Turf-esque offense, the loss of Philippe Coutinho and how he keeps football in perspective.

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MLS: Higuain extends with Crew, Royer gets new deal with Red Bulls

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Two key midfielders earned new deals on Thursday, as two of the Eastern Conference’s recent successes helped solidify for their attacks for the next few years.

The Columbus Crew extended Designated Player attacker Federico Higuain through the 2019 MLS season.

Higuain has been with the Crew since 2012, when the Argentine joined the club from Colon de Santa Fe in his native country.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls extended Daniel Royer’s contract, as the Austrian winger in the midst of his third season with Jesse Marsch’s group.

Thus far, Royer has tallied 17 goals in all competitions for the Red Bulls, including 15 during the 2017 campaign, where the former Midtjylland player finished second on the team in goals behind Bradley Wright-Phillips.

UEL: Griezmann nabs crucial away goal vs. Arsenal, Marseille cruises

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A game of back-and-forth at the Emirates Stadium set up an enticing second leg in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, while a Ligue 1 side positioned itself well to move into the final.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Arsenal and Atletico Madrid settled for a 1-1 draw in London, as Antoine Griezmann’s late strike leveled the match for the Spanish side.

The Gunners looked on their way to a victory when Alexandre Lacazette‘s goal just beyond the hour mark put Arsene Wenger‘s men in front.

The result sets up a strong showdown for the two giants in a week’s time, although Arsenal will feel it left something on the table after racking up 26 shots (seven on target) on the day, particularly after Sime Vrsaljko was sent off after 10 minutes for the visitors when he picked up a second yellow card.

Meanwhile, Florian Thauvin and Clinton Njie gave Marseille a 2-0 win over Red Bull Leipzig, giving the French side the edge it sought out ahead of the competition finale.

The two clubs will meet again at Red Bull Arena Salzburg for the second leg.


Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Marseille 2-0 Red Bull Salzburg

Europa League, LIVE: Arsenal, Marseille host first legs

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Diego Costa brings a solid career record against Arsenal back to London in a bid to ruin Arsene Wenger‘s farewell season at the Emirates Stadium.

[ FOLLOW: Arsenal vs. Atleti ]

The now-Atletico Madrid forward returns to England on Thursday as his La Liga outfit aims to stop Arsenal from reaching next month’s Europa League Final in Lyon.

[ FOLLOW: Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg ]

That’s a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff, the same as Marseille’s date with Red Bull Salzburg in France.

ARSENAL-ATLETICO MADRID LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette. Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Chambers, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Nketiah.

Atleti: Oblak, Lucas, Godin, Gimenez, Vrsaljko, Saul, Thomas, Koke, Correa, Griezmann, Gameiro. Subs: Werner, Savic, Gabi, Vitolo, Olabe, Torres, Costa.