The stage is set for Sterling as City take on Liverpool

Andy Hampson 21/11/2015
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Hostility expected: Raheem Sterling.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini says this weekend’s clash against Liverpool will be a special occasion for Raheem Sterling.

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England forward Sterling is set to face the Reds for the first time on Saturday since his acrimonious and protracted £49million (Dh273m) move from Anfield to City in the summer.

But while former City player James Milner may receive a warm welcome as he returns to the Etihad Stadium with Liverpool, Sterling can expect a different reaction from the visiting fans.

The 20-year-old has settled well at City, and already scored six goals for his new club, and Pellegrini hopes he can embrace the next challenge against his old club.

Pellegrini said: “I always think it is special for all players – not only Raheem – to play against the team they worked for for many players. Maybe for James Milner it will be exactly the same.

“But those situations are part of the career of the player. They are now defending another shirt.”

Pellegrini has been pleased with the progress Sterling, who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old with Liverpool, has made at City.

Questions have been asked of his finishing ability but the youngster has started to answer them with a hat-trick against Bournemouth last month and a vital strike at Sevilla in the Champions League.

Pellegrini said: “I always say that Raheem is a very young player. He must improve a lot and in important things. It is important also he can demonstrate it in every game but I am very happy with the way he is playing so far.

“He is just 20 years old and he has a lot of years to work but he will be a very important player, not only for Manchester City but for England.”

Meanwhile, Pellegrini fears Samir Nasri could miss most of the rest of the season, but hopes Vincent Kompany and David Silva are back in action within a week.

Nasri, who has missed City’s last six games with a hamstring injury, this week revealed via Twitter that he could be out for another three months. Now Pellegrini has revealed the 28-year-old faces a tendon operation after suffering a setback on the training ground, and the lay-off could be longer than feared.

He said: “We don’t have Samir Nasri for four or five months. He has a tendon injury in his right leg so now he must have surgery because it’s an important (serious) injury.”

On Silva and Kompany he added: “It’s a long injury because it’s not a muscle injury. It’s an ankle and for different reasons he can’t be 100 per cent fit. If a player is not comfortable I think that he can’t play. I hope it’s the same as with Vincent, that next week he can be okay.”

City may be the league leaders but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not interested in who is the best in the league – unless it is his own side.

The Reds head to the Etihad Stadium having not won in the league in seven years. Klopp has no time for assessing the merits of this weekend’s opposition with the other teams at the top of the table.

“I don’t care about this. I am not interested in who is the best team in the league for as long as we are not the best team in the league,” he said.

“They are very experienced but the difference between Man City and Liverpool is that at this moment we know nothing about Man City. We don’t know about (the fitness of ) Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Wilfried Bony and so on.

“But we are prepared. We have watched games with all of these players and without these players.” 

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Gray and Keys: Sturridge must prove worth

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Fit again: Daniel Sturridge.

Jurgen Klopp suffered his first defeat as Liverpool manager as bogey side Crystal Palace struck misery into the Reds once again before the international break.

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They face the unenviable task of taking on league front-runners Manchester City today. Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who front beIN Sports’ Premier League coverage, examine the German’s initial impact and striker Daniel Sturridge’s future at Anfield.

Andy Gray: It will take some time of course for Klopp to get Liverpool playing the way he wants. We all knew that. When his Borussia Dortmund were playing at their best, it was high tempo, high pressing and full of energy and commitment.

Instilling that won’t happen overnight. It will take January and the summer for him to shape the team but regardless, we’ll see them evolve this year.

Where he has made an instant impact is at the back. It’s been their Achilles heel in recent seasons and there’s been a marked improvement in that department.

There’s no Mamadou Sakho but, in theory, bringing in Dejan Lovren shouldn’t make them any more susceptible. He’s found it tough but this is a good opportunity for him to remind people what a good player he was at Southampton.

We’re not sure how City will set-up against them given the question marks over Sergio Aguero’s participation, whether it be from the start or not. They are a little bit short in that department but Manuel Pellegrini has so much talent and threat elsewhere on pitch they’ll give Klopp’s side plenty to worry about.

It’s going to be a tough ask and I imagine they’ll be on the back foot for much of the game. One man who is certain to be at the forefront is Raheem Sterling. The boy has settled in so well, it’s been seamless. Both he and Kevin De Bruyne are the future of City and these are the games they have to step up in.

In the past a big game player for the Reds has been Daniel Sturridge. His potential return is big… if he can stay fit. I just don’t get it with him, though. When you look at him you see a hugely talented footballer but it’s almost like if he’s not 100 per cent fit, he doesn’t play.

When you’re a footballer you sometimes have to play when you’re not completely fit but with Daniel he seems reluctant to do that if he has niggle. There’s a new manager to impress and he has Euro 2016 as well, so the incentive is there, he has a lot of making up to do though and that may start from tonight.

However, I favour City for this one because Liverpool could struggle against their pace going forward. 3-1.

Richard Keys: It was inevitable that Klopp was going to have an impact. But what the defeat at Crystal Palace will have shown him is the enormity of the task ahead.

Quite simply, Liverpool are not very good. The suggestion of a title challenge after the Chelsea victory was farcical in my eyes. Going forward, they will improve but only if they allow Klopp the freedom to buy and sell who he wants.

And for me one of the first out of the door is Sturridge. The striker has been a massive disappointment. If you look at his career he has had one season in which he’s reached his potential and I have to question his appetite.

From what I hear and what I conclude, I just don’t think he wants to play when he’s not 100 per cent and that’s not acceptable.

Now, whether Klopp can bring the best out of him remains to be seen but I think the German would be happy to see the back of him.

With the current squad they might, and I stress might, put a run together for fourth, but in reality sixth or seventh is more likely. It’s for that reason that I think they’ll get beat by City. 2-0

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Mourinho will not demand January Blues additions

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Not satisfied: Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho says Chelsea’s miserable Barclays Premier League title defence means he has no right to demand transfer activity in January – but he would accept a superstar signing.

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Mourinho maintains Chelsea will reach the top four and qualify for the Champions League, which would take an unprecedented run after three wins and seven losses in their opening 12 games.

The woeful start, including three straight losses, has left the champions 16th in the table ahead of Saturday’s clash with Norwich, three points clear of the relegation zone and 15 adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Mourinho, who received support from Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo on Friday, said: “I will not ask any change to the board for January.

“I don’t need to clean the dressing room, like I heard was written somewhere. And I don’t need to ask the club to spend money in January.”

Pressed on the matter, Mourinho insisted Chelsea may still be active in the winter transfer market, but not at his behest.

“I’m not saying I won’t sign (anyone). I’m saying I won’t ask the club to do it,” he said. “I don’t have the right to do it, in my opinion. I’d be more than happy to be myself and the squad that I have now. I am happy with my players, I trust the players.”

Asked what he meant by not having the “right”, Mourinho added: “Because our performance during the season in the Premier League is not good enough.

“If I ask for players, or if the club gives me a handful of players, it’s like taking the responsibility (away from) us and saying we need extra to reach our objectives.

“I want to have the responsibility in my hands, I want the players to have the responsibility. I want the players to feel that I trust them and that I don’t need other players to reach the objectives.

“I think we should go together, me and the players. I hope everybody stays and I hope nobody comes.”

Chelsea have been linked with the likes of Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Juventus’ Paul Pogba in the past in moves which would take breathtaking transfer sums.

Asked if he would accept the arrival of a superstar, Mourinho said: “Of course, yes, but not because I’m not happy, not because I don’t trust my players, not because I think only a superstar will help us to reach our objectives.

“One thing is to look at players, to know the market. I always look at players. But, in the last week, if every name connected to us was true we’d have to build another training centre because there are already 126 (players linked).”

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