LONDON • Pep Guardiola has urged Raheem Sterling to step up in the absence of Kevin de Bruyne, with Manchester City fearing the playmaker could be out for nearly a month because of a hamstring injury.
The Belgian limped out of City's sixth successive English Premier League victory under Guardiola on Saturday - a 3-1 win at Swansea City - after suffering the problem.
The manager admitted afterwards that the prognosis did not look good.
While de Bruyne was initially optimistic he had suffered only a minor strain and would be sidelined for a couple of weeks, it is understood that the injury is a minor tear and he is likely to be out for up to a month.
If a tear is confirmed, it would rule him out of tomorrow's Champions League tie at Celtic, Sunday's top-of-the-table match at Tottenham Hotspur and the fixture against Everton after the international break.
Premier League goals Raheem Sterling has scored this season. With 32 games to go, the Manchester City forward is just two short of matching his league tally last season.
He could, however, return in the Champions League game against Barcelona on Oct 19.
Guardiola admitted his absence will be a blow but believes Sterling - who scored his fourth Premier League goal of the season on Saturday - can fill the breach.
"Kevin is not going to play the next games and now we need to keep going and win the games without him. We have to do that," the City manager said.
"Raheem feels that. He feels that his team-mates appreciate his efforts - the staff, the coaches - we are so happy about what he has."
Sterling was criticised for his performances at Euro 2016 after a disappointing campaign that ended with England being eliminated by Iceland in the last 16 .
Yet the player, who cost £49 million (S$86.3 million) from Liverpool, acknowledged that the arrival of Guardiola, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager, has helped to transform his approach.
"The manager has told me to enjoy scoring goals and seeing the ball go into the back of the net. He gives everyone the belief and the motivation," Sterling said.
"What is going to make me the player I want to be is scoring more goals, being cool in front of goal and scoring as many as I can."
City will visit Celtic aiming to achieve an 11th successive victory in all competitions under Guardiola.
Sterling will come up against Brendan Rodgers, who gave him his full Premier League debut at Liverpool in 2012, and he admitted his former manager has played a crucial role in his development.
"He was massive for me. I try to learn from every manager I work with and he is a man I definitely learnt a lot from," Sterling said.
"When he first moved from Liverpool I spoke to him and have spoken to him a couple of times since.
"He is a fantastic guy. He played me in different positions to help me understand those roles and what it took. He gave me a lot of confidence.
"It will be good to see him again and I wish him well - but on the day it all comes down to winning the game."