Pep Guardiola has explained why he started Raheem Sterling in the Champions League final despite the winger’s struggles this season.
Sterling has been in and out of the team, managing just 14 goals in all competitions – a sub-par tally given the lofty standards he has set for himself in recent years.
Last campaign, the England international scored a career-best 31 goals, while he averaged 24 goals across the two seasons before that.
The 26-year-old has been outshone by the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden this season, but he found himself lining up alongside the duo in an ultra-attacking City XI to face Chelsea in the final.
Guardiola insists the decision to start Sterling was an easy one due to Chelsea’s defensive approach under manager Thomas Tuchel.
Asked whether Sterling was a wildcard selection, the City boss told BT Sport : “No, absolutely not, they play a system five at the back, we need specific players and in that area and we decide for Raheem.”
Guardiola added: “If we want a chance to win, we have to attack. Of course, you have to defend but our way is to attack.
“We need everyone. The second-half, I’m sure will be pretty different to the beginning.”
Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand was delighted to see Sterling named in the starting XI for the biggest game in City’s recent history.
“I’m so happy that Raheem is playing,” said the pundit. “Over the last three years, what he’s done at this football club, for him to miss a showpiece like this would have been a travesty, really.
“He deserves, for what he’s given this club for the last three or four years, to be in this game. He’s been a sub for a lot of games this season, which would’ve been disappointing.
Why has Sterling struggled this season? Comment below.
“But he’s kept his mouth closed and look at the reward he’s got tonight. This is almost an audition tonight to get in the England team.”
Sterling’s starting role in the Champions League final suggests his future in Guardiola’s plans is secure despite recent speculation linking him with a move away from the Etihad.
The Liverpool academy graduate gave a glowing verdict on the Gunners boss last October, saying: “[Arteta is] a person that had a lot of say here [at City].
“The manager trusted him here and he had a lot of influence on the players here and the team as well.
“So I knew once he went into Arsenal that it would be a great opportunity for him but also he would definitely implement what he wanted to bring in.
“And he’s a person that will put his foot down and not let things slide as you can see with the boys at Arsenal. They know if they don’t run they are most likely not going to play.”