Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini on Raheem Sterling: ‘I do not understand why Liverpool boo him’
The Manchester City boss thinks Anfield should welcome back the 21-year-old as he makes his first return to his old stomping ground since last summer’s acrimonious £49million switch to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Sterling rejected a new contract offer from Liverpool last year – with his agent controversially claiming he would not re-sign for £900,000 per week – to force through a move to City.
Reds fans made clear their disdain for the player during Sunday’s Capital One Cup final at Wembley and the Anfield rematch is unlikely to witness anything different.
But Pellegrini said: “I do not understand why the Liverpool fans boo him because I think (James) Milner was very well received here in a similar situation.
“It’s not the best but I prefer to have those boos from the other team than from your own fans.
“It’s difficult for any player but all of them are prepared to do it without any problem. I don’t see Raheem worrying about that. I don’t have any problems trusting him.
“He will maybe receive the same treatment when he arrives at Anfield but I’m absolutely sure he can play without any problem.”
Sterling had a poor game when the sides met at Eastlands in November but he performed much better – one poor miss in front of goal aside – at the weekend.
Pellegrini has had no thoughts of pulling his player out of the firing line.
He said: “I don’t know which will be the starting XI on Wednesday but one player I am sure will start is Raheem Sterling.
“It is important for him to play under pressure. I have 100 per cent trust in Raheem.”
City prevailed on Sunday after extra time and penalties. Pellegrini expects both sets of players to be tired but hopes the joy of Wembley glory will put an extra spring in his side’s step.
The Chilean said: “It was a very long game, but for both teams. I think both teams will arrive with the same hours of resting – but every time you win it is more easy to recover.
“I don’t know how they (Liverpool) will react. It’s the revenge, its another comp, they are at home, so we are sure it will be a difficult match to win but we will try to do it from the first minute.”
City have breathed fresh life into their season in the past week with an impressive Champions League win at Dynamo Kiev as well as their cup final success.
Prior to that they had hit problems with back-to-back defeats to Leicester and Tottenham threatening to derail their title bid before a controversial FA Cup loss at Chelsea.
Confidence is now high they can get their league campaign back on track.
Pellegrini said: “The complete squad are confident they can win the title, especially as they have the experience.
“The first (Premier League) title that this club won – that year, they recovered eight points on Manchester United. With three minutes of the final game to go, United were the champions, but in three minutes football changed.
“The whole squad is concentrating on closing that gap. If we can do it sooner, that is better, but while we have chances we’ll continue.”