Ster­ling poised to han­dle hos­til­ity

Guardi­ola backs for­ward for An­field

Sport360 - - Premier League - By Andy Hamp­son @andy­hamp­son ed­i­to­rial@sport360.com

Pep Guardi­ola be­lieves Ra­heem Ster­ling is now ma­ture enough to take a hos­tile An­field re­turn in his stride.

Two years ago the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional was jeered and sub­sti­tuted at half-time dur­ing his first game back at Liver­pool fol­low­ing his £49 mil­lion (Dh247.16m) move to Manch­ester City.

Ster­ling re­ceived sim­i­lar harsh treat­ment from Reds fans as he en­dured another dif­fi­cult match at his old ground last sea­son.

But this time things could be dif­fer­ent with Ster­ling en­joy­ing the best form of his ca­reer ahead of the Premier League lead­ers’ trip to Mersey­side to­day.

The 23-year-old has been one of the key fig­ures in City’s out­stand­ing start and has 18 goals to his name, his pre­vi­ous best in a club sea­son al­ready smashed by seven.

City man­ager Guardi­ola said: “Nor­mally when this kind of re­ac­tion hap­pens it is be­cause he was loved by the fans.

“I un­der­stand com­pletely but it is not the first time he has gone back. I think it is the sec­ond or third time.

“I think he’s more ma­ture. Of course he has to be calm and play the game he has to play.”

City have won 20 of their 22 Premier League matches this sea­son and drawn the other two. They seem to be pow­er­ing to the ti­tle but, of all teams, Liver­pool are con­sid­ered one of the most likely to threaten their un­beaten record.

Jur­gen Klopp’s men have found form them­selves and have not lost in 13 out­ings in the league, mak­ing them strong chal­lengers for at least sec­ond place.

The en­counter will also be a clash of two of the most ex­cit­ing teams in the Premier League this sea­son.

City may be able to af­ford a slip-up but Guardi­ola views the con­test as a stern test of his side’s cre­den­tials.

He said: “It’s a real test to go to An­field, one of the most pres­ti­gious sta­di­ums and teams in the world. So we’ll try to put in a good per­for­mance. It’s a big game for us and we are go­ing to pre­pare as best as pos­si­ble.

“If you want to achieve some­thing good or win ti­tles you have to not just win, you have to win on these kind of stages.”

Mean­while, Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp is rel­ish­ing the chance to put things right when City visit.

The 5-0 de­feat at Eti­had Sta­dium on Septem­ber 9, when Sa­dio Mane was sent off just be­fore half-time with the score­line at 1-0, re­mains the Ger­man’s most frus­trat­ing match of the sea­son.

Both teams were level on seven points when they met in the fourth round of Premier League matches and Klopp be­lieves the re­sult was some­thing of a turn­ing point in both clubs’ cam­paigns.

With the gap now at 18, the Reds are play­ing to prove a point but Klopp would like noth­ing bet­ter than to in­flict a first league de­feat of the sea­son on City.

“We played there a few months ago and it was one of the stranger games in my life,” he said.

“Be­fore the City game we were pretty much level and af­ter that game we strug­gled a bit and City ob­vi­ously didn’t.

“In a foot­ball way we should try to clar­ify some­thing. Some­times you get an op­por­tu­nity to put things right.

“It was not a nice day so try­ing to draw another pic­ture would be one part of our motivation.”

City have lost just once in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son – to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League – and have a 15-point ad­van­tage at the top of the ta­ble hav­ing scored 64 goals and con­ceded just 13.

How­ever, Liver­pool mid­fielder Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain in­sists Pep Guardi­ola’s side are not un­beat­able.

“Of course they’re not. They’re still hu­man. They haven’t lost many games but of course they are beat­able,” he said.

“I think he’s more ma­ture. Of course he has to be calm” – Guardi­ola on Ster­ling

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.