English Premiership

Iheanacho boost as City face Hart dilemma

Pep Guardiola (Getty Images)
Pep Guardiola (Getty Images)

Manchester - Manchester City's new manager Pep Guardiola takes his team to Stoke City bolstered by the news that promising forward Kelechi Iheanacho has signed a long-term deal to stay with his club.

The 19-year-old Nigerian came off the bench in the opening-day victory over Sunderland, and is considered one of the game's most exciting prospects with an excellent career record of eight goals in seven Premier League starts.

Iheanacho has agreed a two-year extension to his old deal which will keep him with City until at least 2021 and he is likely to see some action at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

"I just need to keep working hard and express my feelings on the pitch," said Iheanacho.

The situation regarding one of his team-mates, England goalkeeper Joe Hart, is more complex with the player seemingly at an impasse with the club over his short-term future.

Hart is reported to prefer a 12-month loan period away from City, where it has become apparent he does not figure in Guardiola's plans, in order to explore his options at the end of the season.

But City are understood to prefer a permanent sale of a player they value in the $33 million bracket, a fee which would cover the pending signing of Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo.

Everton and Sevilla are the only clubs with an apparent interest in signing Hart on a permanent basis and he may face a frustrating end to the transfer window.

In the meantime, Willy Caballero looks certain to remain in goal for the match at Stoke, with Hart again on the bench for the third consecutive time under Guardiola this season.

Hart is not the only big-name player to have come under pressure since the arrival of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Guardiola, with defender Nicolas Otamendi the latest to face an uncomfortable spotlight.

Otamendi struggled to find his form with City last season and the arrival of 47.5 million England defender John Stones has added competition in that department.

Guardiola was scathing regarding Otamendi's performance in his team's 5-0 Champions League victory at Steaua Bucharest in midweek and was particularly angered by a reckless challenge he believed could have resulted in a conceded penalty.

"I don't like it when central defenders go down on the pitch," said Guardiola.

"I don't know about last season because I wasn't here, but we are here to get him better.

"After the two penalties for us, a little situation is going to give away a penalty against us and we have to avoid that."

Stoke could again be without their own England goalkeeper, Jack Butland, for the meeting with one of the Premier League's title favourites as he struggles to recover from the effects of the ankle injury he suffered on international duty.

His absence would mean England's current top two goalkeepers sitting out the game.

"We need to be a little bit cautious, we're not going to throw Jack back in unless he's not feeling any pain whatsoever or if we feel it's the right thing to do," said Stoke manager Mark Hughes.

Meanwhile, Hughes believes Guardiola's arrival in Manchester can only be good for the Premier League.

"He's an accomplished manager who has been successful wherever he has been," said Hughes.

"He's had huge resources wherever he goes and they've been the top team in both countries he has been at.

"It's about using those resources to the best advantage possible and he's certainly done that, so I think it is good for the Premier League that he has come here."

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