Pep Guardiola has advised Raheem Sterling to restore his confidence if he rivals Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez in Manchester City’s starting line -up.
Sterling was the lifeblood of Guardiola’s era at the Etihad Stadium but has only started two of the last eight games.
He was a mainstay for all three of his 2022 World Cup qualifiers with England during the recent international break including scoring a goal in a 5-0 win over San Marino.
Sterling was the main backup for the English Premier League (EPL) leaders who suffered a shock loss to Leeds United, but returned to the bench for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final (UCL) meeting against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday, which saw Mahrez and Foden score for confirming their progress to the semi -finals.
“He’s probably the second or third player to have the most minutes this season,” the City manager told a news conference.
“My faith in Raheem is still intact. He is just less in action as Phil and Riyad are at the peak of their performance, scoring goals and being very effective in the opponent’s defense.
“He has to restore his confidence. He has it through all of us, he should have it because of his consistent quality. I can’t offer confidence to the players, he has to get it himself.
“Having confidence from me due to being selected is something of the opposite. What we have done in these incredible years, with the number of matches and constant records, Raheem is the key.
“He’s a key player and still a key character. But at the moment Phil is playing very well, so is Riyadh. That’s the only reason. They know it. They realize it and all the players are playing regularly this season.
“Every day, people want to control the past and the future. I don’t care. I just care about the training sessions, the situation, the behavior, the body language, the atmosphere for this semi -final match, that’s what should be said.
“We have very good players. The relationship in the locker room at the bad moments of the season is very good and great at the good moments.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, has confirmed Zack Steffen will be sent off to face Chelsea as a last resort as a top -flight option. Ederson.
The United States international has started all four FA Cup matches this season and Guardiola admits it would be unfair to sideline the 26-year-old despite facing Thomas Tuchel’s side at midnight tomorrow.
“He played very well in the FA Cup,” he explained.
“He’s an international goalkeeper and when he plays, he performs at a good level. He trains well, he deserves his chance. I’m more than happy to give him this chance.”