Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists Raheem Sterling can handle reception ahead of latest Anfield return

The Catalan insisted that Sterling is 'more mature' since his last visit to Merseyside.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists Raheem Sterling can handle reception ahead of latest Anfield return
Above: Raheem Sterling during the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool in December 2016 | Photo: Getty Images/Matthew Ashton - AMA

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola insists that Raheem Sterling will be capable of handling the reception at Anfield, ahead of Sunday's clash with his old employers Liverpool. 

Sterling rose to fame as part of the Reds deadly forward trio that were on the cusp of Premier League glory in the 2013/14 season, but he left Merseyside under a dark cloud having rejected a bumper contract opting for a big-money move to The Etihad Stadium. 

After a tough start in Eastlands the 23-year-old has began to come into his own, especially in the current campaign where he has recorded his best goal tally with 18 goals only second to striker Sergio Agüero. 

Has to be 'calm and play the game' 

This won't be the first time that Sterling has returned to Anfield since his move in 2015 but is still expected to receive an unfavourable reception, but Guardiola insists that a 'more mature'  Sterling will be able to handle the reception. 

"Normally when this kind of reaction happens," Guardiola stated to his pre-match press conference on Sterling's return to Anfield. "It is because he was loved by the fans." 

"I understand completely but it is not the first time he has gone back," the Catalan proclaimed. "I think it is the second or third time." 

"I think he’s more mature," Guardiola added. "Of course he has to be calm and play the game he has to play."

 

Master of the counter-attack 

The red half of Merseyside has proven to be quite the difficult place to go for The Citizens even in the modern era, winning just twice at Anfield in the last 45 years with the last victory coming way back in 2003. 

They head to L4 to face a Liverpool side that have a devastating streak of form having not been defeated in 13 matches, however since the last matchday they have lost the services of Brazilian talisman Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona. 

However they have began to strengthen their oft-shaky back line with the world-record defensive signing of Virigil van Dijk, and Guardiola believes that The Reds are beginning to play like the dominating Liverpool sides of the past. 

"Jürgen Klopp is a master of the counter-attack , the Spaniard said. "So they're a team who can arrive in the finishing area in three or four touches." 

"I think Liverpool are playing like Liverpool were in the past, with all their history," the coach stated. "The fans are demanding attacking football. Liverpool have to defend their whole history.

"In the 80s they dominated the world and European football. I think they are trying to respect that," Guardiola concluded. "We want to do something quite similar. We want to try to be the best."