Belfast Telegraph

Raheem Sterling relishing clash with Liverpool pals: Manuel Pellegrini

City boss backs youngster to deal with facing old club but says he still has room to improve

By Andy Newport

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini says this weekend's clash against Liverpool will be a special occasion for Raheem Sterling.

England forward Sterling is set to face the Reds for the first time today since his acrimonious and protracted £49m move from Anfield to City in the summer.

But while former City player James Milner may receive a warm welcome as he returns to the Etihad Stadium with Liverpool, Sterling can expect a different reaction from the visiting fans.

The 20-year-old has settled well at City, and already scored six goals for his new club, and Pellegrini hopes he can embrace the next challenge against his old club.

Pellegrini said: "I always think it is special for all players - not only Raheem - to play against the team they worked for. Maybe for James Milner it will be the same.

"But those situations are part of the career of the player. They are now defending another shirt."

Pellegrini has been pleased with the progress Sterling, who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old with Liverpool, has made at City.

Questions have been asked of his finishing ability but the youngster has started to answer them with a hat-trick against Bournemouth last month and a vital strike at Sevilla in the Champions League.

Pellegrini said: "Raheem is a very young player. He must improve a lot and in important things.

"It is also important that he can demonstrate it in every game but I am very happy with the way he is playing.

"He's just 20-years-old and has a lot of years to work but he will be a very important player, not only for Manchester City but for England."

The case of Milner is different to that of Sterling, who became embroiled in a contract dispute with Liverpool and questioned the Merseyside club's ability to win silverware.

England midfielder Milner, 29, won four trophies with City but could not command a regular starting role in his preferred central position and decided to move on after his contract expired last summer.

Pellegrini said: "We did all we could to convince him to stay. He wanted another challenge and you must understand that if a player does not want to stay, you cannot do any more to convince him. We tried to do all that we could."

The Sterling and Milner factors add extra spice to today's intriguing Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium. The fixture could also see the leading strikers for both clubs, City's Sergio Aguero and Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool, return to action after injuries while much fascination still surrounds new Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

The atmosphere is also likely to be fevered with the rivalry between the clubs having intensified since their title duel in 2014.

Pellegrini said: "I think that one of the most important things in important games is to have a cold mind because there are a lot of mistakes. That is so important and I hope we can do it."

Meanwhile, City will not face any sanctions from Uefa for their fans booing the Champions League anthem.

Uefa's disciplinary body has reviewed the case after the booing was reported by the match delegate following last month's home win over Seville and decided not to take any action.

A Uefa spokesman said: "The Uefa control, ethics and disciplinary body has decided to close the disciplinary proceedings."

City's fans have regularly booed the anthem, which is taken from Handel's Zadok the Priest, to express their unhappiness with Uefa.

Issues that have angered fans include financial fair play sanctions and last season a City fans group protested after 650 CSKA Moscow supporters gained access to their stadium for their Champions League game, despite the Russian club being ordered to play it behind closed doors.

Uefa's decision to take no action over the anthem had been expected after the organisation's general secretary Gianni Infantino said two weeks ago that fans had a right to boo anything they wanted.

Infantino said: "They are booing their team, they are booing opponents, they are booing the Uefa Champions League anthem.

"We have to not be offended by it, live with it and to make things always better and try to prove and show people what is down in our heart is football basically."

The report of the booing had been made by match delegate Geir Thorsteinsson.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph