(Updates after City win, changes slug)
LONDON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart will keep his place for the crunch Premier League match at home to table-topping Liverpool next week, manager Manuel Pellegrini said after the 4-2 win at Fulham on Saturday.
England's Hart started a league match for the first time since Oct. 27 at Fulham having been dropped following several costly mistakes in favour of Romanian Costel Pantilimon.
Pantilimon was back on the bench on Saturday having conceded three goals in the 6-3 home win over Arsenal last weekend.
"He (Hart) deserved to play and he also deserves to continue," Pellegrini told the BBC. "In every match we could play with 11 different starters but at the moment Joe will continue to play.
"Joe did well and it was not easy. The pitch was very quick and there was a lot of wind but he had a very good game," added the Chilean after his team moved within a point of Liverpool who visit the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
It was Hart's first league appearance since he rushed off his line in the last minute at Chelsea, prompting a mix-up that gifted Fernando Torres the winner in a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Pantilimon played in City's next seven league matches.
"When I put Pantilimon in the starting XI I spoke with Joe and he understood he was not in a good moment. Pantilimon was also doing well but I thought this game would be better for Joe," added Pellegrini.
England manager Roy Hodgson has publicly backed Hart and said he hoped his first-choice keeper would get enough club games before the World Cup in Brazil in June. (Writing by Mark Meadows and Ken Ferris, editing by Tony Jimenez)