Goalkeeper inspired City in Champions League and wants more of the same.
MANCHESTER: Joe Hart has challenged his Manchester City teammates to use their midweek fightback against Borussia Monchengladbach as the springboard for a strong run in the Premier League.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages by coming from a goal down to win at Monchengladbach in midweek.
But City have little time to rest on their laurels as they return to domestic action against struggling Newcastle at Eastlands on Saturday.
The return of Hart in goal after a two-match absence proved crucial to the win in Germany.
Argentinian Willy Caballero performed poorly when City capitulated in a 4-1 defeat at Tottenham last weekend that cost them top spot to Manchester United.
Hart, by contrast, was superb against Monchengladbach, making a series of crucial saves, including one to keep out a first-half penalty from Brazilian midfielder Raffael.
Now the England international wants his team to build on the momentum from that much-needed success as they try to avoid a third successive league defeat. “We need to get back to the first five games of the Premier League season, where we were more of a balanced team,” said Hart. “We’ve been a bit imbalanced. But the season is a long season, so you have got different stages. We hope that will put us in a good place for the Newcastle game.”
Second-bottom of the table, Newcastle remain without a league win after seven games this season, but Aleksandar Mitrovic insists last week’s 2-2 draw at home to champions Chelsea gives a clearer indication of the quality at the disposal of head coach Steve McClaren.
“Against Chelsea, we showed we can play well against the big teams,” said Mitrovic, the Serbian striker who is yet to score in six appearances since signing from Anderlecht. “That kind of performance is how we should be playing every week, and I think we’re capable of playing like that on a regular basis.”
However, Newcastle have lost on their last seven league visits to City, with their last win in this fixture coming in 2000.
Chelsea in crisis as Saints visit The Bridge
As Chelsea’s problems deepen, Jose Mourinho will attempt to revive his side’s disastrous campaign by masterminding a victory against Southampton at Stamford Bridge.
Another testing week has only added to the growing sense of unease around the club, with Mourinho forced to defend his relationship with his players after making unexpected changes for the Champions League trip to Porto.
The overhaul did not have the desired effect, with Chelsea slumping to a 2-1 defeat that reinforced the view that Mourinho’s side this season are a shadow of the team that eased their way to the Premier League title in May.
The Portuguese labelled the current crisis as the worst of his career. “I define it as the worst period in my career, with the worst results in my career,” he said. “I take it as a fantastic experience, but I don’t want to repeat it, I want to finish it tomorrow and start winning matches again.”
Chelsea’s success last season was built on their defensive strength but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’s absence due to injury, together with Branislav Ivanovic’s dramatic loss of form and John Terry’s frequent demotion to the bench, means the back-four is not what it was.
The visit of Southampton will provide another stern test, with Saints manager Ronald Koeman voicing his confidence this week that his side can get something from the game after twice holding Chelsea last season.
Koeman is in no doubt about where Chelsea’s weakness lies. “Maybe they have some defensive problems,” he said. “They didn’t concede a lot of goals [last year] but this season it’s different.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2015.
Like Sports on Facebook, follow @ETribuneSports on Twitter to stay informed and join in the conversation.