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Hart’s reinstatement is key to Manchester City’s title tilt

| 06.12.2013

The pieces of the Premier League title puzzle are starting to fall into place for Manchester City after finally scooping three precious points away from home, though Manuel Pellegrini must get recognized number one Joe Hart back between the sticks ahead of the frenzied festive fixture list.

Now that Man City have finally begun to rescue their miserable away form with that victory at West Brom, their marginal favouritism for the title at odds of 13/8 has taken on a far more credible look.

Nonetheless, there is still a heavy workload ahead and also areas of concern, especially in the way that City’s players clocked off for the night in the closing stages to let an emphatic 3-0 scoreline slip to become a far-less convincing looking 3-2.

The way veteran defender Martin Demichelis was so easily rolled by Victor Anichebe for the second Baggies goal in particular will have City fans praying that Matija Nastasic’s recovery from injury is mercifully swift.

But, the man between the posts for City must take his fair share of the blame too and surely now Pellegrini will have to bring back England’s number one from Premier League exile.

The gigantic frame of Costel Pantilimon has its obvious advantages, though his lack of agility was sorely exposed at the Hawthorns.

His inability to readjust his limbs before the comical first-goal, an own goal, was reminiscent of a newly born foal’s first unsteady steps in the world and it was a mistake Hart would have been crucified for.

Then, while the second was from close range, his dive to get down to Anichebe’s effort appeared to be directed at a phantom ball struck some seconds later.

As we saw in his Champions League cameo, Hart’s shot-stopping ability is unquestionably of a higher calibre than his Romanian counterpart.

Hart has patiently served his penance for his rash decision-making early in the season and will have learned from it.

He’s too good to leave out having been an essential cog in the Manchester City defensive wheel, which not only delivered the title in 2011/12 campaign with the fewest goals conceded, but he was also part of the meanest Premier League defence again last season.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.