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Mark Hughes on Joe Hart: I never thought distribution was one of his weaknesses
Stoke manager Mark Hughes does not believe Joe Hart's distribution is a problem as the Potters prepare to face a Manchester City side likely to be missing their out-of-favour goalkeeper.
England stopper Hart has been surprisingly marginalised at Hughes' old club since Pep Guardiola took over at the Etihad Stadium, with the Catalan preferring his deputy Willy Caballero.
Guardiola has attributed his decision to Caballero's familiarity with his system, which puts an emphasis on a goalkeeper passing out from the back, and there is a suggestion that Hart's omission is due to his perceived limitations with the ball at his feet.
However, Hughes, for whom Hart was a regular starter during his only full season at City, insists he never saw anything wrong with that aspect of the 29-year-old's game.
Speaking on the importance of a goalkeeper's distribution, Hughes said: "It's an important factor but you have to keep the ball out of the net as well. That's quite important when you're talking about the goalkeeper position.
"It's an aspect of modern football now. Ideally you would like a goalkeeper who's comfortable with the ball at their feet because they instigate attacking moves right from the beginning.
"We're fortunate in regard to ourselves that we've got one in terms of Jack (Butland), who's exceptionally good in that respect, and Shay (Given) is very good. We're well served in that respect.
"Just from having worked with Joe myself, I never thought that distribution was one of his weaknesses but it's all about opinions."
The outspoken Joey Barton had called the treatment of Hart from his old team "disgusting" earlier this week, though Hughes refrained from opining further on the matter.
"I don't really want to debate other people's situations at their club," he said.
"It's a situation that maybe has been ongoing not just for the last couple of weeks with the new season starting. It seems to me, looking from the outside, that the decision was made a long time ago.
"They've known for quite some time that Pep Guardiola is coming to the club so I'm sure they've had discussions on all aspects of their team moving forward."
Shay Given, formerly of City, will start again in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday because Hart's England back-up Jack Butland is still possibly a week away from returning due to an ankle problem.
Hughes also confirmed that Xherdan Shaqiri, who was instrumental in the Potters' 2-0 home victory over City last term, is doubtful with a calf injury picked up in pre-season.
City boss Guardiola has said Hart can leave the club if he wants but the former Barcelona coach is convinced the England goalkeeper will become a better player if he stays at the Etihad Stadium.
Asked if Hart could move if he wishes, Guardiola said: "Of course. I want happiness for the players. I don't want the players to stay here if they don't want to stay.
"All the players here have a contract. If they decide they want to stay they are going to stay, but they know the situation when I spoke with them.
"If they want to leave because they prefer to play every game - not only speaking about Joe, speaking about all the players at the club, the squad - (they can). I want to live and work with the players who want to stay. That is no doubt.
"I said to him (Hart) in the first morning if he stays he is going to improve and he is going to understand what we want from our goalkeeper.
"I met a lot of goalkeepers in the beginning who had problems and after two or three months became one of the best players in that position.
"That can happen, but when we played these two games right now, in that situation he (Caballero) is better, but that does not mean it is going to happen in the future."