Liverpool v Manchester City: Abuse of Sterling bemuses Pellegrini
Manuel Pellegrini claims he does not understand why Liverpool fans would abuse Raheem Sterling. The Manchester City boss thinks Anfield should welcome back the 21-year-old as he makes his first return to his old stomping ground since last summer's acrimonious £49million switch to the Etihad Stadium tonight.
Sterling rejected a new contract offer from Liverpool last year - with his agent controversially claiming he would not re-sign for £900,000 per week - to force through a move to City.
Reds fans made clear their disdain for the player during Sunday's Capital One Cup final at Wembley - which City won on penalties after a 1-1 draw following extra-time - and the Anfield rematch is unlikely to witness anything different.
But at his pre-match conference, Pellegrini said: "I do not understand why the Liverpool fans boo him because I think (James) Milner was very well received here in quite a similar situation.
"It's not the best but I prefer to have those boos from the other team than from your own fans.
"It's difficult for any player but all of them are prepared to do it without any problem. I don't see Raheem worrying about that. I don't have any problems trusting him.
"He will maybe receive the same treatment when he arrives at Anfield but I'm absolutely sure he can play without any problem."
Sterling had a poor game when the sides met at the Etihad in November but he performed much better - one poor miss in front of goal aside - at the weekend.
Pellegrini has had no thoughts of pulling his player out of the firing line.
He said: "I don't know what the starting XI will be for the Liverpool game yet but one player I am sure will start is Raheem Sterling.
"It is important for him to play under pressure. I have 100 per cent trust in Raheem."
Pellegrini expects both sets of players to be tired after Sunday's extra-time and penalties but hopes the joy of Wembley glory will put an extra spring in his side's step.
The Chilean said: "It was a very long game, but for both teams.
"I think both teams will arrive with the same hours of rest - but every time you win it is easier to recover.
"I don't know how they (Liverpool) will react. It's the revenge, its another competition, they are at home, so we are sure it will be a difficult match to win but we will try to do it from the first minute."
City have breathed fresh life into their season in the past week with an impressive Champions League win at Dynamo Kiev as well as their cup final success.
Prior to that they had hit problems with back-to-back defeats to Leicester and Tottenham threatening to derail their title bid before a controversial FA Cup loss at Chelsea.
After arresting their slump, confidence is now high they can get their league campaign back on track.
Pellegrini said: "The complete squad are confident they can win the title, especially as they have the experience.
"The first (Premier League) title that this club won - that year, they recovered from eight points behind to catch Manchester United.
"With three minutes of the final game to go, United were the champions, but in three minutes football changed.
"The whole squad is concentrating on closing that current gap. If we can do it sooner, that is better, but while we have the chances we will continue to fight."