Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has backed Joe Hart to defy critics and prove he is England’s best goalkeeper.
Hart’s status as England’s first choice has come under renewed scrutiny after an error in the midweek friendly against Scotland at Wembley.
The 26-year-old was widely thought to have slipped below the high standards he set during City’s 2011-12 title-winning campaign last season.
England boss Roy Hodgson has backed his keeper but added that form will be important in a season he hopes will end with a trip to the World Cup in Brazil.
Pellegrini said: “I haven’t spoken with him – maybe tomorrow we will (speak) – but I think Joe Hart has to demonstrate why he is the best goalkeeper in England every week he plays.
“He is a very important goalkeeper, I have a lot of trust in him.
“Everyone can make an error in one match but personally I have a lot of trust in Joe Hart.
“I don’t have any problem with his performance. I am sure he will again this year demonstrate why is the number one in England.”
City begin their latest Barclays Premier League campaign when they host Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium on Monday.
Pellegrini’s appointment over the summer, coupled with the new signings of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo, has changed the mood at the club.
Last season ended on a sour note as City conceded the title to Manchester United and were beaten by underdogs Wigan in the FA Cup final.
Pellegrini is happy with how his squad has settled and is ready for the twin challenges of the Premier League and Champions League.
He said: “I am very pleased. I think we have the squad we need for the year, for important competitions – not only for the Premier League but also the Champions League.”
City’s summer signings were all completed early in the close-season window but Pellegrini has not ruled out further additions before the transfer deadline on September 2.
It has been suggested City could attempt to sign another defender after Matija Nastasic was injured playing in the Asia Trophy last month.
Darren Bent could be set for a dramatic opening day return to his old club Sunderland after reportedly moving closer to a season-long loan switch to Fulham.
Cottagers boss Martin Jol – who takes his side to the Stadium of Light today – refused to comment on a prospective Bent deal.
But Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert said: “I think it’s well documented now that he’s down there having a medical and that’s the last I’ve heard.”
Bent left Sunderland to join Villa in a £24m move in 2011 but fell out of favour with Lambert following the emergence of fellow striker Christian Benteke.
Meanwhile Lambert is focusing on giving his side a good start to the season as they prepare to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Like Jol, Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio is looking to sign at least two more players before the transfer window slams shut early next month.
Despite already adding 10 new names to his squad, Di Canio said: “If there is a chance then one or two more would be welcome and the club is working on this. I’m happy up front and at the back and I’m happy in the middle, but we miss something. I hope in the next few days we are going to get something there.
New Everton boss Roberto Martinez insists he is not worried about speculation concerning the future of big names Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines at Goodison Park.
Martinez takes his side to Norwich on the opening day having expressed relief that a buy-out clause in Fellaini’s contract has expired. Martinez said: “I’m not concerned at all at the moment. The window is open and until it closes you’re going to get speculation.”
England hero Rickie Lambert joins back up with his Southampton squad for their return to West Brom.