Joe Hart: Man City goalkeeper still the best - Pablo Zabaleta

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart is "still the best" and makes his team-mates "feel safe", according to defender Pablo Zabaleta.

Hart, 26, was widely criticised for his display in Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League home defeat by Bayern Munich.

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I don't tell you now whether Joe will start on the day of the game because the rest of the players don't know yet

Manuel Pellegrini Manchester City manager

Manager Manuel Pellegrini would not confirm Hart will start Saturday's Premier League match against Everton.

But Zabaleta told Football Focus: "He's still the best. Right now is not his best moment but this happens."

Hart was at fault for two of Bayern's three goals, failing to stop routine shots from Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.

Argentina defender Zabaleta said: "Sometimes Joe Hart - like any player - can make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. It is impossible to be at the top level for 60 games a season over many years.

"Maybe sometimes [Lionel] Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo do it.

"But I've known Joe Hart for five years and have seen him playing at his best form and know that he is the best. The feeling for me and my team-mates is that, looking at him in the goal, I feel safe."

Zabaleta said Hart had been City's "main main" for the first quarter of last season and "everyone at the club" has total confidence in him.

The 28-year-old added: "He's one of the leaders in this group. Before games, he's very focused and I'm sure that very soon he'll be back to his best form."

England boss Roy Hodgson has given Hart his backing and Pellegrini said the goalkeeper "continues with the trust of all the team", adding: "Joe knows he must improve. Soon I hope he recovers what he had."

Should England stick with Hart?

"We seem to be in a bit of a vicious circle with England goalkeepers. We build them up and build them up - and then as soon as they hit a wobbly spell they get absolutely crucified."

Hart was slow to react for Andreas Weimann's winner for Aston Villa last weekend, was beaten at a corner by Cardiff striker Fraizer Campbell in August and allowed a shot from James Morrison to go straight through him during England's victory against Scotland at Wembley.

After the defeat by Cardiff, Pellegrini told Hart  his place was not guaranteed, with 6ft 8in Romanian Costel Pantilimon providing his main competition.

The City boss said: "I will decide whether Joe will start or not - I always contemplate different things. I don't tell you now whether Joe will start on the day of the game because the rest of the players don't know yet.

"But Costel Pantilimon is a very good goalkeeper also. He has all the rights to play and I know he's working hard.

"I'm absolutely sure if it is against Everton, or another game when Pantilimon must play, he would do well."