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Joe Hart ready to be Manchester City number one, says Alan Smith

Alan Smith - Alan Smith Posted 22nd December 2013 view comments

Joe Hart will have benefitted from his spell out of the Man City side and will now go on to prove he is Manuel Pellegrini's rightful number one.

That's what Alan Smith told Saturday Night Football - Match Choice after Hart played in City's 4-2 win over Fulham, in what was his first Premier League appearance since October.

Hart: restored to City's line-up at Fulham

Hart: restored to City's line-up at Fulham

The England goalkeeper was axed from Pellegrini's top flight XI following a mix-up with Matija Nastasic during the Etihad Stadium team's loss at title rivals Chelsea - but made a string of saves upon his return at Craven Cottage.

And Sky Sports pundit Smith reckons the 26-year-old, and not Romanian stopper Costel Pantilimon, will now cement a position between the City sticks in the long term.

I think Pellegrini feels Joe is his real number one and will get back to the form we know he is capable of.

Alan Smith
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"Sometimes it helps to come out of the firing line and watch things from the bench," said Smith. "You get to see things from a different perspective - but Joe will be delighted to be back.

"It was interesting to see him selected as Pantilimon had been in a winning side but I think Pellegrini feels Joe is his real number one and will get back to the form we know he is capable of."

City's victory in west London was far from routine - Pellegrini's men surrendered a two-goal lead before sealing the points by scoring twice in the final 12 minutes - but having seemingly overcome their woes on the road, Smith now classes the Blues as title favourites.

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However, the former Arsenal man is also optimistic that Fulham - now under the tutelage of Rene Meulensteen following the dismissal of Martin Jol - can push themselves away from danger.

On City, who have won consecutive Premier League away games for the first time this term, Smith said: "It was a nervy win and you thought at one point that their poor away form would come back to haunt them, and if it had have done there would have been a real seed of doubt in their minds

"But the fact they did shake it off and win comfortably in the end will help them kick on and replicate their home form on the road.

"Their squad is frightfully strong and I think everybody would feel that after dubbing a few sides in recent weeks they are the team to beat."

On Fulham, Smith added: "They really contributed to a game against the best side in the Premier League and stuck together when things got tough, so I think Meulensteen has had an effect.

"Adel Taarabt led the line really well and was really unselfish, so I do see an improvement there and I think the players are playing for their manager.

"They just haven't got the results."

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