Raheem Sterling can expect plenty of boos from the crowd when he returns to face his former Liverpool team-mates at Anfield for the first time on Wednesday but Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is confident his winger can handle it.
Sterling was loudly abused by the Liverpool fans throughout Sunday’s League Cup final at Wembley, which City won on penalties, and the fixture lists have thrown up an instant rematch in the Premier League.
Pellegrini told reporters on Tuesday that Sterling, who became a hate figure for Liverpool fans after his £49 million move to City last July, was a definite on the team list.
“I don’t know what the starting XI will be yet, but one player who I’m sure will start is Raheem Sterling,” said the Chilean, whose side are fourth in the table and nine points adrift of leaders Leicester City, albeit with a game in hand.
“He’s a young man, a young player starting his career, but he knows how to deal with pressure,” Pellegrini added.
“He’ll receive the same treatment tomorrow as he did at the weekend, but I’m sure he can play without a problem, and he’ll be a very important player, as he was in last game,” the Chilean said.
Sterling, whose transfer was a record for an English player, missed a couple of easy goal chances at Wembley – to the delight of Liverpool fans – and will want to make amends.
Pellegrini said he had no doubts about 21-year-old England international and it was important for him to play.
“I have 100 per cent trust in Raheem. He will play tomorrow and he’ll be important,” he said.
“I think in the way he played the other day he demonstrated – maybe he missed a goal – he worked, was always concentrated, and he was difficult for (Liverpool defender) Nathaniel Clyne one on one.”
Pellegrini would not reveal who he will select in goal, after reserve keeper Willy Caballero’s shootout heroics on Sunday dominated the headlines in Joe Hart’s absence.
“It’s a very easy decision,” he said. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
Midfielder Yaya Toure is doubtful with a foot injury and faces a late fitness check.