Football

'Exceptional' Raheem Sterling will start against Liverpool, says Pep Guardiola


Pep Guardiola is adamant he will not rest Raheem Sterling against his former club on Sunday. “He will be there again,” said Manchester City’s manager as he prepared for Liverpool’s visit. “There will be a moment when he takes a rest but he is so important for us. That is why we cannot [leave him out]. He is an exceptional player. With his physicality he plays all the minutes. He is one of the most fantastic players I ever had in my career.”

After departing Anfield in 2015, reunions with Liverpool have proved emotionally fraught for Sterling but Guardiola hopes the England forward will remind his old club of the immense potential they lost. “He is a better player than when he arrived,” said Guardiola “He’s exceptional. I am pretty sure of his mentality and desire to win and improve a lot. He deserves a lot. I wish in three, four, five years he will be a much, much better player than he is today.

“Will he be one of best in the world if he carries on improving? My advice, I would say to him don’t think about this. It makes no sense. Just enjoy the life; focus and destiny will dictate who he becomes as a player. It depends on him.”

City’s manager was less enthusiastic about the belief that Liverpool have become the most challenging opponents of his coaching career, clearly regarding it as rather parochial. “I will never underestimate all the other opponents in the other leagues,” he said. “When I was in Munich it was Dortmund, with Thomas Tuchel or Jürgen [Klopp] in the first seasons with incredible teams. When I was in Barcelona, Real Madrid, the rivalry there was so, so tough with José Mourinho, with Manuel Pellegrini as well.”

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He also looked back to a 5-3 aggregate defeat against Barcelona, in the 2014-15 Champions League semi-finals. “Luis Enrique, when I played with Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the Champions League, was the toughest opponent I ever faced.

“I have incredible respect for Liverpool and the quality they have. In the past three years the toughest opponents we’ve had in the Premier League were Liverpool. But maybe in a few years City or Liverpool will have a new rival so this will not be eternal.”



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