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Liverpool v Man City: Pep press conference part 2


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Pep Guardiola says he could not be happier with Raheem Sterling’s form.

Inspired since his manager’s arrival, the winger has bagged five Premier League goals and has become an integral part of the Blues’ side.

The England star faces his former club on Saturday when City travel to Liverpool, and Guardiola hopes Sterling will continue his impressive streak.

“We are delighted,” he told press. “I am delighted about what he has done until now.

“I think it is a question for him: what he has improved or learned. What I saw is that in the first part of the season, he was our key player up front.

“Then one month ago, he was a little bit down – for two or three games, he wasn’t aggressive like in the first part of the season – and then in the last two or three he came back and we need that.

“We need his one-on-ones, his attacking with the ball, [his work] without the ball on the back four… Of course, he has talent. He has to read a little bit more – when to play one or two touches; when to go… and sometimes he has to dribble a little bit more, but that's part of the process.

“I spoke to him but not about that [returning to Anfield] - about his last two performances.

“Always it is difficult when the crowd is not on your side and they whistle – it's not easy, but it is part of his growth to become a better player.

“We are going to try and handle the situation, but obviously he must focus on what he has to do himself - that's the only way he can handle it.

“He's a fighter. In the last two games, he was decisive – the goal against Arsenal, the penalty against Hull when the game was tough… and we cannot forget he is so, so young. Of course, all the players need a process to get better but we are so happy with what he's done.”

Saturday’s encounter also welcomes the return of Sergio Aguero from a four-game suspension.

Guardiola was pleased of the way his team coped in the Argentine’s absence.

“We did quite well without him so we have made good performances - except Leicester: 2-0 after four minutes,” he added.

“We have quite good results in seven games without him, but of course he's important for us.

“Can you imagine all the teams in the Premier League without their best striker for all those games? It would be tough for them like it was tough for us – but we are there.

“We are almost there – one point behind Liverpool. We will finish the first half of the season and hopefully in the second part, Sergio can play all the games."

One player who will miss the game is Vincent Kompany, who is suffering with a long-term injury. Asked how his skipper is managing, Guardiola replied: “He is tough because the situation is not easy for him.

“I can always analyse trying to be in their heads and he is one guy who has had lots of injuries in three years. Most of them were unlucky situations.

“What happened against Crystal Palace was unlucky. It must be tough for the players, but I would like him to feel we are there. In the centre back positions, we do not have too many players.

“I would like to tell you some more but I think he is much, much better. The people told me that.

“But he is not really fit and we are going to decide when we do the list about the players for the new Champions League and we will evaluate absolutely everything.”

City have a poor record at Anfield, with the Blues’ last victory back in May 2003 – and that was the first triumph in 22 years.

Guardiola is relishing the test, and is looking forward to visiting the famed stadium.

He continued: “It was one of the good things about coming here, playing in this league – not only Anfield but other grounds like White Hart Lane and Old Trafford... There are a lot of new things for me and this is one.

“That [the facts] shows how difficult it is for Manchester City to go there. We are going to try and change that statistic.

“It is always difficult there. A few times a team can dominate for 90 minutes for many reasons – especially when everyone is new, the players, the coach – but it is a game that is not just tough for Manchester City, but for all the teams in the world.

“I like a lot the way Liverpool play – for the spectators because in three or four seconds, they are attacking. Maybe it is the best manager in the world creating teams who attack the back four, with this amount of players, this intensity, with the ball without the ball...

“It is not easy to do that. They attack there, wide sometimes with Clyne and Milner but especially inside. I think there is not another team in the world attacking this way with so many players inside.

“Every team has its details and of course, Liverpool have quality of people in front. I think at Anfield, there is something about the tactics but when you play against teams by Jurgen Klopp, the tactics are so important. You have to be at that level but they have a specific way to attack and you have to control.

“They are playing one game a week without Europe, which is easy. When you are playing three a week, it is more complicated but I think he is able to do that because he is a huge motivator.

“When I saw what he did in Dortmund – especially in the first year I was there – he is able to maintain that level for a season."

Questioned on City’s title chances and whether Saturday’s game would prove crucial, Guardiola admitted: “I don’t know. From my point of view, I want to fight until the end of my last chance.

“When I was a football player, I was 12 points behind Real Madrid and I was a champion. And when I was 12 points ahead in winter, I had to travel to Madrid four points ahead.

"You have to be there until the end. Tomorrow is not a final but it is like a final – an important game for both teams. Hopefully, we can make a good performance."