Pep Guardiola has rubbished suggestions of a disagreement with Raheem Sterling as he prepares his Manchester City squad for Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Borussia Monchengladbach.
City manager Guardiola left England forward Sterling out of his matchday squad for the Premier League leaders’ victory at Fulham on Saturday as he rotated his players.
There were social media rumours afterwards that the pair had fallen out over the matter, but they were swiftly denied by Sterling.
Now Guardiola has insisted that Sterling has responded well to his omission and the 26-year-old will be back in contention to face Monchengladbach in the second leg of their last-16 tie in Budapest.
Guardiola said: “He travels with the team, of course. All the squad travel to Budapest to play the Champions League.
“Raheem and all the players always train and react really well. I don’t expect they are happy, the guys don’t play, it is normal, it has always happened since football was created.
“Raheem has been so important and is so important for the team and all of us.
“All the players respect my decisions, of course they do. I never found in my career in 14 years as a manager one player who was happy when they don’t play, but they react and behave really well.”
Guardiola added that it was not necessary for Sterling to have to deny the rumours that the pair had had a disagreement.
“Some crazy rumours on socials today… That’s absolutely FALSE,” Sterling wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Looking forward to a big week with the team.”
Asked about this tweet, Guardiola said: “He doesn’t need to do it. Nothing happened. He was not selected, that’s all.
“Sometimes during the season, for example when we travelled to Stamford Bridge, we had 14 first-team players and the rest were from the Academy. In that position it is easy to make the selection and everybody is happy and involved.
“When you have 20 top-class players (available) who have had incredible success, it will always be unfair on them. That is the point. I now have 20 players.
“In that (Fulham) game he (Sterling) was not selected but in another game it was other players.”
In an interesting press conference to preview the Monchengladbach game, which City will begin with a 2-0 aggregate lead, Guardiola also publicly knocked down claims from defender Oleksandr Zinchenko that his side can win the quadruple.
Speaking before his manager, left-back Zinchenko responded positively when asked if City can win all four trophies in which they are competing this term.
“Of course everything is possible,” said the 24-year-old Ukrainian. “We have an unbelievable squad, the best players in the world. Definitely, why not?
“Inside the dressing room I can see hungry eyes. Everyone is so hungry for the titles. That’s what we want.”
Guardiola almost immediately disagreed.
“I am older than Mr Zinchenko, I have more experience and I don’t agree with him,” said the City boss, who is 26 years the left-back’s senior.
“The only thing he has to be worried about is trying to do a good game tomorrow and try to go through.
“Four titles is a utopia. It never happened before and I think it’s never going to happen. We just think about this one, then the next one at Goodison Park, then the international break.
“If you ask me if I’d agree with Zinchenko, I’d say no, completely not.”