Pep Guardiola’s men lock horns with the 13-time European Champions in an eagerly-anticipated two-legged semi-final tie, welcoming the Spanish heavyweights to the Etihad Stadium for part one on Tuesday night.
City reached the Final of the competition for the first time last season but were edged out by Chelsea. Looking to go one better this time around, the Premier League Champions must first negotiate the La Liga leaders.
After both finishing top of their respective Champions League groups, City reached the final four with victories over Sporting CP and Atletico Madrid, while Real Madrid edged dramatic five-goal and nine-goal thrillers against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.
With Los Blancos having lifted the trophy more than any other Club – most recently in 2018 – Sterling, who scored in our last meeting, admits the Spaniards’ European pedigree and quality needs no introduction but asserts it must not dictate City’s approach.
“We know – not just from this season but from previous seasons and history – how good they are in this competition,” he said.
“They have scored late goals but we have players who have been in high pressure games and we know how to deal with it. I think come tomorrow, we will be fine.
“Not having a game [this past weekend] is beneficial for them but at the end of the day, it all comes down to tomorrow: who's prepared mentally and physically, and who wants it more.
“What's happened previously doesn’t really matter. All that's in the past. All we can control is making sure we are prepared right. It’s a game over two legs. We can't focus on their previous games. We focus on tomorrow at the Etihad.
“Every season we are a Club looking to challenge for all the big trophies. The Champions League is the one we haven't got our hands on and is the one we are focused on.
“It’s a special competition. It’s a competition every young player wants to be in and it was no different growing up.
“I try to give my best. The music and atmosphere on the night is always special.”
With 24 goals in the Champions League, Sterling stands level with Paul Scholes in second place in the charts of English scorers in the competition.
Six more goals would see the City star equal Wayne Rooney’s record of 30 and the forward says he is happy to challenge himself to reach such milestones.
“It’s like anything… When you make your debut, then it’s the next thing: score your first goal,” he added.
“And as a human, you always look to be better and improve. I always try and see… As a player, a forward, to be playing and scoring and making assists and contributing to the team is a massive thing. It’s where you get your confidence from. That’s what I am out there for.
“It’s a team full of competition. It’s the competition that makes you thrive. When you are performing you want to keep scoring and making assists. Sometimes you have to understand there's a lot of great players in the team.
“I’m playing and contributing a lot more [than last season]. I am in a good mood, good spirits. The team is in the semi-final of the Champions League and fighting for the title. I couldn't ask for much more. I am in good spirits.
“If I can get the English record, that's what I will do.”