Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has backed record signing Raheem Sterling to deliver against the likes of Chelsea.
City’s £49million summer signing from Liverpool is poised to make his home debut at Etihad Stadium tomorrow.
Sterling spurned a good chance to score in City’s first game of the season, Monday’s 3-0 win at West Brom, but Pellegrini has no doubt his quality will soon show.
He said: “I think that he will be a very dangerous player. Maybe we were criticised for the amount we paid for him but I am sure he will demonstrate during the year, especially against the big teams, why he was valued so much.”
Sterling excelled as Liverpool ran City close in the battle for the title in 2014. He flourished alongside the influential Luis Suarez and Pellegrini thinks City’s creative players will similarly bring the best out of the 20-year-old.
He said: “It is always important for young players to play with good players who can improve them, the same way he did with Luis Suarez or (Steven) Gerrard for Liverpool.
“Here he will play David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, with players that will make him improve in a lot of ways. Young players always learn from important players. It is very important for them to play with him.
“I think last year he scored 11 in all competitions. I am sure this season he will improve.”
Pellegrini claims he will have no issue shaking Chelsea rival Jose Mourinho’s hand this weekend.
The two managers have a rivalry dating back to when Mourinho succeeded Pellegrini as Real Madrid boss in 2010 and made unflattering comments about his predecessor. They did not shake hands after their first meeting in England in October 2013, when Mourinho’s Chelsea snatched a late Fernando Torres winner at Stamford Bridge and the Portuguese celebrated extravagantly.
Mourinho was involved in another handshake incident a fortnight ago when he did not acknowledge Arsene Wenger after Community Shield defeat to Arsenal.
But Pellegrini said: “I said the first day I arrived here I have my differences with him but... I always shake hands with him.”
Pellegrini feels it is important to get a good result this weekend to send out a strong message for the season ahead, even if it is too early to talk about the encounter in terms of its title significance.
The Chilean, who has beaten Mourinho just twice in 13 attempts in England and Spain, said: “We are not thinking about the title in the second game but we are thinking about trying to win our points at home, especially as we are playing against the champions and one of the teams that has a lot of chances to win the title.
“It is the same as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham – all the big teams.”
Pellegrini would not comment on reports claiming City have lodged a £47 million (€66 million) bid with Wolfsburg for Kevin de Bruyne or rumours linking the club with apparent Manchester United target Pedro of Barcelona, simply saying: “I don’t talk about rumours.”
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