Sterling insists Blues can be caught

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

City winger believes form can turn quickly in the EPL and Chelsea remain vulnerable

LONDON • Raheem Sterling insists Manchester City can knock Chelsea off their perch and win the Premier League this season.

City ended a near-three month wait for a home league win last week when they beat Watford 2-0.

A 2-1 victory over title rivals Arsenal four days later further boosted spirits within Pep Guardiola's squad, but they remain seven points behind leaders Chelsea (43).

Antonio Conte's side have won 11 league matches in a row, but Sterling believes they are still vulnerable and can be caught.

"You have to keep your eye on everyone and can't think you are ever comfortable where you are in the league. Things can turn so quickly," said the City winger, who scored a stunning winner against the Gunners on Sunday.

"They might get a bad run and we can go on a run, we are capable of that, and that's what makes the Premier League so fantastic.

"I'm massively excited about this season and what we can achieve. Of course we want the title, to do well in the Champions League."

WHAT THE COACH SAID

To be direct, to be involved in creating chances and scoring goals, being clinical and that's what I need to do.

RAHEEM STERLING (above), Manchester City winger, on his coach Pep Guardiola's advice to him.

Sterling's form has mirrored City's own this season.

The winger started the campaign impressively, but his form dipped as soon as City lost their first match of the season away to Tottenham Hotspur.

A pep talk from Guardiola helped the former Liverpool player rediscover his best form and end a 14-match scoring drought.

"He has told me to be direct, to be the player he knows I want to be," Sterling said.

"To be direct, to be involved in creating chances and scoring goals, being clinical and that's what I need to do.

"I watch players to get better. I'm only 22 and I'm going to watch world-class players to see if I can improve my game week in, week out.

"I know I can still get better. It's about me enjoying my football, learning each day at training. I just need to show it on the pitch. I can't keep talking about it but have to do it. I need to express myself and that's what I'm trying to do."

Guardiola has been spared a defensive injury headache ahead of their Boxing Day clash away to Hull City after it emerged that the knee injury Pablo Zabaleta suffered against Arsenal is not serious.

The right-back came off at half-time after suffering suspected ligament damage when he attempted a shot on goal. But scans have revealed that there is no long-term damage to the 31-year-old's left leg.

Sergio Aguero serves the last match of a four-game suspension on Boxing Day, but Fernandinho is available after completing his ban.

However, Ilkay Gundogan is out for the season because of anterior cruciate ligament damage he suffered against Watford.

City's players wore Gundogan shirts before kick-off as a show of support for the Germany midfielder on Sunday.

It has emerged that the City squad came up with the idea to wear the shirts and Guardiola gave his approval to the gesture before the game.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Sterling insists Blues can be caught'. Print Edition | Subscribe