Joe Hart: I've told Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel to calm down
Published 05/02/2016 | 22:41
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart is setting aside his friendship with former team-mate Kasper Schmeichel for 90 minutes this weekend.
Leicester number one Schmeichel was among the first friends Hart made when he joined City as a teenager but that will be forgotten temporarily as they meet in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.
Schmeichel has enjoyed an outstanding season as the Foxes have mounted an unexpected Barclays Premier League title challenge while England international Hart has again been a key performer in City's bid for glory.
The pair are just five months apart in age - with 29-year-old Schmeichel the senior man - but have taken different paths to the Premier League summit. Schmeichel never established himself at City and went out on a series of loans before leaving permanently in 2009. In all he had spells at seven different clubs before joining then-Championship Leicester five years ago.
Hart, 28, also spent time out on loan but has been City's first choice for the past six years and won two Premier League titles in that time.
Hart said: "I've spoken to him loads, he's someone who I still speak to regularly and who, regardless of football, is a good friend of mine. I think a lot of him.
"We've been close since I first came to Manchester City. He was the first guy to welcome me here and I'll never forget that. He's done amazing things in football and he's doing really, really well. He's one of the main reasons Leicester are where they are. He's been fantastic this season as he has been ever since I've known him.
"He's a great keeper and he's really had to scrap hard to get where he is. He went to League Two and to Scotland - which is a good standard but to be where he is now and be the dominant force he is, he's worked for that and he deserves everything that he gets.
"For 90 minutes he's not going to be my friend, he's going to be the opposition, but as soon as that's finished we are who we are. I've spoken to him this week to congratulate him on their win this week and told him to calm down a bit!"
Leicester maintained a three-point lead at the top of table with a superb 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.
Their title challenge is showing no signs of fading and Hart has no doubt it is a genuine one.
He said: "If you just look at the fact that they're top of the league after 24 game then yes it's amazing, but if you've watched them every week then it isn't that amazing because they've been worthy winners in the majority of their games. They fully deserve to be where they are and it's going to be a really tough game for us. We need to beat them."