Guardiola backs Sterling to develop thicker skin with every Anfield visit – Ireland

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists he has no concerns about starting Raheem Sterling at former club Liverpool on Sunday.

Sterling has received hostile receptions and struggled in games back at Anfield since leaving the Reds for City in 2015.

Despite being one of City’s key players throughout last season, the England international was used only as a second-half substitute when the sides met on Merseyside in the Champions League quarter-finals in April.

But Guardiola claims that was a tactical decision and he is not shielding the 23-year-old, who he expects will learn to cope with the challenges of returning to his old stomping ground.

City travel to Anfield this weekend in an eagerly anticipated early-season clash of the Premier League’s top two sides.

Guardiola said: “The reason why last time he didn’t play was for other reasons, tactical. What I wanted to do was have Kyle Walker on the right side attacking more than him. That was the plan. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

“I don’t think about that (crowd reaction). Even if that happens – maybe it affects him, maybe not – but being so young, he has to learn about that.

“When he has been a player for us for a long time, and hopefully it will be for a long time, sooner or later he will go many times to Anfield.

“He grew up there, he has a good memories about his period there. Of course the Liverpool fans want (him) to play bad, and he has played bad but he wants to play good. Normally I don’t do it for that reason.”

City were beaten 3-0 in that Champions League quarter-final first leg after conceding three times in the space of 19 minutes in the first half.

It was a similar story for City in the Premier League encounter at the same ground in January, when three goals in nine second-half minutes proved their downfall in a 4-3 loss.

They were rare blips in an outstanding season and Guardiola is determined to prevent Liverpool building momentum in such fashion again by fighting fire with fire.

He said: “The problem was in the Premier League we conceded three in five or six minutes. It went 2-1, 3-1, 4-1. We have to avoid that because it’s Anfield.

“With our luck we have to score goals at Anfield. I think they are going to score goals. At Anfield if you don’t score goals it is complicated. If we don’t score goals we are not going to win.”

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