Ahead of tomorrow's game against Viktoria Plzen there were a couple of interesting comments from Manuel Pellegrini.
Following the victory over Tottenham it was confirmed that Hart would start in the Champions League and in today's press conference Pellegrini rebuffed suggestions that Hart would join Stoke on loan ahead of a potential City move for Asimir Begovic, saying that there is 'no chance' that would depart.
Although Hart starts tomorrow then there is no guarantee that he will remain in goal for the weekend game against Swansea, with Pellegrini keeping his cards close to his chest over the goalkeeping situation. Hart may not return against Swansea but I increasingly think that it is sooner rather than later that Hart returns.
Chatting with shuddertothink we both had a suspicion that Hart would in fact return to the side against Tottenham on the back of his appearance with England. That didn't come to pass and whilst Costel Pantilimon has performed serviceably in relief but although error-free he hasn't shown that he is anything more than a competent back up.
It will be upto Pellegrini and his coaching staff to judge Hart's form and state of mind and assess when he is the time for him to return but it is inconceivable this is a long term plan. By featuring against Viktoria Plzen this may be Pellegrini easing Hart back into the limelight, testing his readiness ahead of a full-time return.
Perhaps Sunday is too soon but the expectation is surely that Hart's time on the bench does not last more than a couple more weeks.