Manchester City boss Pellegrini wary of Norwich City’s ability to mix it with the big boys

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is wary of Norwich City's ability to mix it with the big boys: Martin Rickett/PA...

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is wary of Norwich City's ability to mix it with the big boys: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Norwich City's ability to trouble the big boys in recent weeks has not gone unnoticed by Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini.

The wily Chilean watched both the Canaries' Premier League defeats against Chelsea and Arsenal and saw enough to realise Norwich's lowly league status only tells part of the story.

'I think Norwich are a difficult team,' he said. 'I saw both those games. Against Arsenal, until minute 83, it was a very close match, and against Chelsea, they lost the match in the last five minutes. If we think that, playing at home, we will win easy, it is a great mistake. The team will be very conscious about that.We must do a very good game.'

Pellegrini's pre-match press briefing was dominated by whether he will restore England international Joe Hart to the Blues' backline or retain understudy Costel Pantilimon who featured in the midweek extra-time Capital One Cup win over Newcastle.

Hart's error which led to Chelsea's winner in City's 2-1 league defeat at Stamford Bridge last Sunday was the latest in a series of high-profile blunders made by the 26-year-old for club and country. Pantilimon has yet to feature in the Premier League this season, but asked if Hart would be returning to the team for the Norwich game, Pellegrini's simple reply was: 'On Saturday you will know the answer. It is a decision I have to take every week with 22 players. I don't know if Joe was disappointed (to miss Newcastle). You must ask Joe - I can't answer for him how disappointed he was. All of you and the players and me all saw what happened.

'But he is a football player and every week he is under the same pressure. I am always very careful with all the players, not only Joe.'

Mancester City's boss will definitely be without captain Vincent Kompany along withStevan Jovetic and Javi Garcia who both picked up injuries in the Newcastle win. City's skipper has missed the last four matches due to a thigh problem and is unlikely to return until after next month's international break.

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'Vincent is progressing but I think it will be after the international break maybe that he will be fit - before that I think is difficult,' said Pellegrini. 'He is a very important player but I think we have a strong squad just for this case.

'Other players can play. We played the last five matches (without him), and we won four and lost just one against Chelsea, and I think we deserved more. So he is always an important player, but I think we can play also without him.'