Sunday 17 November, 2019

Guardiola tips Sterling to maintain prolific

Raheem Sterling and Pep Guardiola.

Raheem Sterling and Pep Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola sees no reason why Raheem Sterling cannot break through the 30-goal barrier for Manchester City this season.

England winger Sterling has started the new campaign in sparkling form, opening the scoring against Liverpool in the Community Shield before netting a hat-trick in last weekend's 5-0 demolition of West Ham.

The 24-year-old hit 17 Premier League goals last season and 25 in all competitions as City won an unprecedented domestic treble.

Sterling's West Ham treble brought up 50 top-flight goals in City colours, 38 of which have come since the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Guardiola has no desire to set targets for his forward line but has no doubt the ex-Liverpool man's numbers can improve further.

"Yeah, hopefully. It will be good for him and for the team," he said, ahead of Saturday's keenly anticipated home game against Tottenham.

"When he's in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. So, he can do it, yeah. He scored 25 [last season] and 25 to 30 is only five goals. He can do it.

"But I don't know. I never spoke with Sergio [Aguero] or Gabriel [Jesus] or Raz, with any of the people up front, about what are their dreams and targets and these kinds of things. I don't know, honestly. They are happy when they are scoring goals.

"I think goals are a consequence of the way we play - their mood, how the team's playing, no injuries. 

"I wouldn't judge him if he scored 30 goals, or 35 or 20. When he scores goals, I'm happy. But if he does what he has to do for him and the team, it's enough."

Guardiola has experienced a number of enjoyable tussles with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, dating back to the Argentinian claiming his first senior coaching win at Espanyol with a victory over mighty city rivals Barcelona in 2009.

When that rivalry transferred from Catalonia to the Premier League in 2016, new City boss Guardiola won his first six straight top-flight games before his side were ransacked in a 2-0 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane.

City have not lost a league game to Tottenham since, winning the past four, but were dumped out of the Champions League in April when Pochettino's men prevailed in a dramatic quarter-final.

"About Tottenham, I think my colleague can speak better about his team," Guardiola said. "I said from the first day when we played at White Hart Lane and lost 2-0, I never said a wrong word about the capacity, quality and possibilities of this team, the manager and the club.

"I said many times, it is not necessary to repeat again. They are a strong team, a good team."

It was not hard to detect a slightly terse tone to the praise of a man who took umbridge at Guardiola labelling Tottenham as "the Harry Kane" team in 2017.

Asked how good a job Pochettino had done in north London, Guardiola indicated his praise might fall on deaf ears.

"Overwhelming, extraordinary, I said many, many times," he added,

"I don’t know if Pochettino receives many compliments as other managers like me, I don’t think so.

"My opinion about him is high standards, even if he doesn’t believe me. He’s a top, top, top, top manager."

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: