Belfast Telegraph

Pellegrini defends Sterling

Raheem Sterling will hope to justify the fuss as Manchester City begin their Barclays Premier League campaign at West Brom on Monday.

The England international will be the chief focus of attention at The Hawthorns following his acrimonious £49million move to City from Liverpool over the summer.

Much of the headlines surrounding the 20-year-old in recent months have been negative and he will want to make a quick start in City colours to turn discussion back to his football.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini is confident he can do that and has been pleased with how quickly the player has fitted in during pre-season.

Pellegrini said: "He has settled in very well. He wants to come here, he wants to have new challenges. I don't think he deserves criticism about that.

"He is working very well and it is easy for good players to settle in a good team. I think we are going to have a very successful player this year."

Sterling is likely to be thrown straight into the action with Pellegrini having suggested that he may ease his four Copa America players, including star striker Sergio Aguero, back into action because of their summer exertions.

Pellegrini certainly adopted such an approach with Aguero after his injury-hit World Cup campaign last year, starting him on the bench for the first two games. It proved to be a sensible decision with Aguero going on to score 32 goals during a prolific season.

There could also be an opportunity for Wilfried Bony, who is now the only other senior out-and-out striker in the squad following the departure of Stevan Jovetic and imminent sale of Edin Dzeko.

Bony has made a slow start to his City career, scoring just twice since his £28million January move from Swansea.

Pellegrini said: "Bony is a very good player. He was very unlucky last season because he started with the African Nations Cup and after that he had an injury for about a month and a half. We have a squad and have to fight for four titles. I think Bony will be very important in that squad."

The trip to Tony Pulis' West Brom, followed by next week's clash with champions Chelsea, makes for a potentially tricky opening to the season for City.

Pellegrini said: "All the games in the Premier League are very difficult, especially when you start because everyone expects to have a good season. Playing away is not the same to starting at home but we are confident we are going to have a good game."

Sterling's conduct during his final months at Liverpool, as it became apparent he was looking to leave, attracted much criticism and over the summer he was booed on England duty and during City pre-season games.

He could remain a target for opposition supporters but new team-mate Fernandinho believes he will take it in his stride.

The Brazil midfielder said: "I think he is a strong character with the right personality. I remember seeing him in an interview talking about his determination to win trophies and I'm sure he will be able to manage the situation."

Fernandinho is confident the arrival of Sterling, and the further addition of midfielder Fabian Delph, have improved the squad after last season's disappointing second-placed finish to Chelsea. The 30-year-old is also hopeful of a prolonged run in the Champions League.

He said: "I believe the squad is strong enough to fight for both trophies and I feel very enthusiastic about our chances this season, especially in the Champions League. It is going to be my third season in the competition and (winning it) is something that motivates me.

"The players that have come in are very good, but there is also a responsibility of the players already here to help them properly integrate into the team and allow them to give their best.

"Personally, I believe the team can be very successful scoring goals. The biggest thing to improve is defensively. The attacking part of the team is very strong, and it's about improving consistency in defence.

"Of course that includes myself, as part of my role. I believe we have learned the lesson and I'm confident the new season will be much better."


From Belfast Telegraph