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My trust in Sterling remains intact, insists City boss Pep Guardiola

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has started Raheem Sterling in just two of City's last eight games

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has started Raheem Sterling in just two of City's last eight games

Mark Critchley

Pep Guardiola has insisted that his trust of Raheem Sterling is “intact” despite the Manchester City winger losing his automatic starting status over the past month.

Sterling was named among the substitutes once again for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund, having started just two of City’s last eight games in all competitions.

The 26-year-old has been the third-most used outfield player at City this season, with only Ruben Dias and Rodri spending more time on the pitch than Sterling’s 3,077 minutes.

Yet since City’s derby defeat to Manchester United at the Etihad last month, Sterling has played second fiddle to the likes of Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez and is by no means guaranteed to start today’s FA Cup semi final against Chelsea.

Despite his scoring form suffering this season, Guardiola denied that Sterling is lacking confidence in front of goal but said that it is difficult to ignore how well Foden and Mahrez are playing.

“[Sterling] was – maybe the second or third player with more minutes I played this season so the trust with Raheem is intact,” the City manager insisted. “It is the same like we arrive here. Only played less because Gabriel [Jesus] sometimes, Phil, Riyad on top level. They are scoring goals and being so decisive in the final third.

“The confidence? He has to have it, he has it from all of us because the quality is there. I cannot give the players confidence, they have to have it for themselves. For me give confidence is to select. This is the opposite.

“Raz has a lot of experience, what we’ve done these incredible years, with us breaking I don’t how many records. In the future these will be broken but Raheem was key and was a key player. But in that moment Phil is playing really good and Riyad is playing reallly good. That is the only reason why and they know it.

“Everyone plays a lot of minutes in this season. That is what I said every day, people talk about the past. In the last last eight games he play two, they talk about the quadruple. I couldn’t care less.

“I care about today’s training session and about how you behave, your understanding and your body language, mood and tomorrow against Chelsea in the semi final. That’s where they have to talk. There is the place.”

Guardiola went on to deny that there was any disquiet in the City dressing-room over a lack of playing time.

“We have excellent human beings,” he said. “The relation in locker room in the bad moment this season has been fantastic and in the good moments it has been fantastic. That is not in doubt. But they want to show it, I’m sorry.

“The bigger stars want to criticize their mangers? Ok, you talk, no problem. Three days you have another game. Show me then after I will come to you and say oh f*** how wrong I was. You were right and you are a top talent.

“There, not here, not writing books. No, in the semi-final of a Champions League, go there and win the game like the biggest stars do and after I say I’m sorry. This is the greatest. The greatest are like this. They go there and score two or three goals. I say ‘oh f*** he was right and I am wrong’.

“Michael Jordan never go to the media and say my manager and agent and criticise won the NBA titles. Show it. The big ones are there. The only way I know in my career. Knowing that I’m here to support them all the time. Never ever a bad performance will you hear me say.”

Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero will miss today’s semi-final against Chelsea, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

The striker has not featured in City’s last three games after experiencing a muscular problem.

It is the latest in a catalogue of injury and illness issues to have blighted the Argentinian’s final season at the club.

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