Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists that Raheem Sterling retains his utmost confidence in spite of being frozen out of the club’s starting line-up as of late.
Sterling has started just two of City’s last eight games in all competitions, having long been one of the cornerstones of Pep’s plans at the Etihad Stadium.
But the manager is adamant that he still has a big part to play for the Premier League leaders.
What was said?
“The trust with Raheem is intact,” Guardiola told reporters ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley.
“It is the same as when we arrived here.
“[The only reason] why he has played less is because there is Gabriel (Jesus) sometimes or especially Phil (Foden) or Riyad (Mahrez) and they are at a top level, scoring goals and being decisive in the final third.
“He has to have confidence. He has the confidence of all of us, he has to have it. Because the quality is there. I cannot give the players confidence.
“They have to have it for themselves to give me the confidence to be selected.
“I have said many times what we have done over these incredible years, with the amount of titles, breaking records in the process… Raheem is key.
“He was a key player and is a key player. But in this moment Phil is playing really well and Riyad is playing really well.”
The bigger picture
Sterling has blossomed since coming under Guardiola’s wing at City, particularly with his ability in front of goal.
The England winger has improved year on year in that aspect, netting 20 goals in the 2019-20 Premier League to record his best-ever season, compared to just six in his first term after moving from Liverpool in 2015-16.
This year, though, he has faced new competition as Foden has emerged as a quality alternative.
The 20-year-old has scored 13 goals in all competitions during the current term, including strikes in both legs of the Champions League quarter-final to see off Borussia Dortmund.