LONDON – Joe Hart faces being on the bench for at least three weeks after Manuel Pellegrini confirmed that Costel Pantilimon is his No1 for the foreseeable future, with the Romanian to start Manchester City's Champions League game with CSKA Moscow tonight.
Hart's England position in the build-up next summer's World Cup could be affected with Roy Hodgson now having a selection dilemma for the upcoming friendless against Chile and Germany.
If he retains Hart then the goalkeeper would have had no first-team football since the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on 27 October, when his mistake allowed Fernando Torres to score a last-minute winner.
With Pantilimon also expected to play at Sunderland at the weekend ahead of the international break, the earliest Hart might be recalled would be on 24 November when City host Tottenham Hotspur.
Yet with Pellegrini indicating he has total trust in Pantilimon if the 26-year-old performs consistently then Hart could be out for a prolonged period.
After City beat Norwich City 7-0 on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium the manager was asked if it was now difficult to drop Pantilimon.
"No it's not a problem," he said. "For the moment we must support Costel Pantilimon. Joe made a lot of mistakes, he knows. Not just this year, also last year. So I think for Joe it is a good moment to stop. But I am absolutely sure that working hard he will, I don't know when, but in a moment he must return to his normal position."
Regarding the selection of Pantilimon for the Moscow match, the Chilean said: "Yes of course I have [no problem]. I have confidence in Costel Pantilimon, that's why he's the second goalkeeper. If I don't have trust in him I will change it. It's done and I am sure he will do very well."
Pellegrini would not be drawn on why precisely he believes Hart's form has faltered. "It's not an answer to do in just one minute," he said.
"We will try to recover him as soon as possible. But he was the first player today who congratulated Costel Pantilimon and the morale inside the team is very well. Joe is one of the players with him and my duty is to start with the players I think that will give the best performance."
The error at Chelsea came when Hart rushed out to the ball as Matija Nastasic attempted to clear only for the defender to head it into the path of Torres.
Speaking for the first time about the incident, Nastasic said: "It was a difficult situation because I was the player on the ball. Joe was coming from the line and I didn't see him, so it was difficult, but I think it is my fault and Joe's fault. I don't want to say it is Joe's fault because when we leak a goal it's because the whole team does something wrong. When we lose a goal we need to improve and that means all of the team defending, and all of the team attacking."
Fixtures (All matches 9:45pm unless stated)
Tuesday: Juventus v Madrid, Kbenhavn v Galatasaray, Olympiakos v Benfica, Man City v CSKA Moscow, PSG v Anderlecht, Sociedad v Manchester, Shakhtar v Leverkusen, Plzen v Bayern
Wednesday: Zenit v Porto 7pm, Barcelona v Milan, Basel v Steaua, Ajax v Celtic, At Madrid v Austria Wien, Napoli v Marseille, Dortmund v Arsenal, Chelsea v Schalke,