Pep Guardiola Defends Raheem Sterling Form Ahead of Man City's Tottenham Clash

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2020

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) greets Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 7, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has defended star forward Raheem Sterling amid his recent run without scoring.

The forward enjoyed a remarkable start to the campaign and took his goalscoring tally to 20 with a brace against Wolverhampton Wanderers in December.

However, since that 3-2 defeat, the forward has failed to find the net in his past seven games, with the ruthless edge he's managed to find in recent seasons deserting him. Ahead of the Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, Guardiola said he has no concerns about the England international, per Simon Mullock of the Sunday Mirror:

"Raheem is one of the only guys I’ve met in my career with a recovery quicker than I’ve ever seen before. It’s incredible. He could play every three days and of course the more he plays regularly the better and better he feels.

"Raheem defended brilliantly in the last game (against Manchester United) and had clear chances that no other player can create for themselves. Unfortunately he could not score a goal - but he was there, so I am more than delighted with his performance against United.

"The people with statistics with goals and assists say it has been a month but I am not judging Raheem just for that. It is important but not the only thing."

As Guardiola noted, in City's 1-0 loss to Manchester United on Wednesday, Sterling was presented with a number of opportunities. However, when it came to the critical moment, the 25-year-old was hesitant with his finishing:

Sky Sports Football @SkyFootball

The wait goes on for a goal against #MUFC for Sterling! How costly could this prove for #MCFC? Follow live updates and clips as #MCFC host #MUFC in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg live on Sky Sports Football here 👉 https://t.co/mAlNT4yXhM https://t.co/bEdVTNbNfA

Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail thinks the miss against the Red Devils epitomised a challenging spell for Sterling:

Jack Gaughan @Jack_Gaughan

Raheem Sterling's last two months in one clip

Although he's struggling to find the net, it isn't a shock that Guardiola is at ease with the winger, who's been one of the best players in the Premier League in recent years.

Whether on the left or right flank, Sterling can terrify full-backs with his shift in pace and close control. Under Guardiola, he's also developed a penchant for getting into excellent positions, meaning he often caps off some of City's sweeping attacking moves.

Per Sam Lee of The Athletic, for one reason or another, those moments aren't emerging as much for Sterling:

Sam Lee @SamLee

Sterling is always going to be in good positions because he's always alert to where he should be and where the ball is going to go, but the execution when he gets there is just off at the moment. Confidence? One-on-ones always been an area of improvement at the best of times

Guardiola will be hopeful Sterling can rediscover that edge soon, though. While the Premier League title is effectively gone, with Liverpool racing clear, City will be hopeful of challenging for the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup, while they are also in the EFL Cup final.

As one of their most productive attacking players, Sterling will be key if City are to finish the season with silverware. Given the focus on him pre-match, it will be intriguing to see how he performs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, especially if a big chance comes his way.