Pep places Hart's spot between City's posts in doubt

LONDON • Joe Hart fears his Manchester City career may be over after being dropped by Pep Guardiola for Saturday's 2-1 English Premier League victory over Sunderland at the Etihad.

The relationship between Hart and Guardiola is understood to be frosty and the manager is expected to leave out the goalkeeper again for today's Champions League play-off first leg against Steaua Bucharest in Romania.

Given the City hierarchy had viewed John Stones' arrival as the final transfer of the summer, Guardiola's exclusion of Hart may also serve as a message to the board he is intent on signing a new No. 1.

While Guardiola insists the 29-year-old is in contention, Hart is bemused his coach preferred Willy Caballero for Sunderland's visit. Hart respects the Argentinian but was dismayed to be sidelined.

As well as preferring Caballero for his first league match, Guardiola also left Yaya Toure completely out of the 18-man matchday squad.

Guardiola admitted after the win against Sunderland that Hart, along with a trio of other players would be upset at being left out.

"I'm pretty sure he's not happy," the manager said, before also discussing Toure plus Samir Nasri and Eliaquim Mangala, who also did not feature.

"All the players who didn't play, they're sad, they're upset. I would not like them to be happy if they would not play. I'm sorry I have to decide, we have 28 players so they have to convince me on the pitch."

While Guardiola retains an interest in Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Caballero wants to prove he can be the permanent No. 1.

"Yes, I am here," he said. "I try to show to Pep and all the players and fans every single day. But this kind of decision is for the boss and the club. The most important thing for me is to enjoy this game and that I keep improving."

The goalkeeper revealed Guardiola now asks his players to have a post-match meal together rather than leave straight away.

"Yes, that's quite good. Sometimes we finish and go home and arrive two hours later at our homes because of traffic," Caballero said.

"This is all good for team spirit. He loves to have a big group of players and he knows that sometimes we can all be good friends and can be a great team."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'Pep places Hart's spot between City's posts in doubt'. Print Edition | Subscribe