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Guardiola backs 'extraordinary' Sterling to keep improving

October 23, 2019 16:40 IST

Raheem Sterling's link-up play with Sergio Aguero and Phil Foden (in picture with Sterling) was at times breath-taking, leading to former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to suggest on BT Sport after the game he was now among the top five players in the world

IMAGE: Raheem Sterling's link-up play with Sergio Aguero and Phil Foden (in picture with Sterling) was at times breath-taking, leading to former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to suggest on BT Sport after the game he was now among the top five players in the world. Photograph: ManCity/Twitter

Pep Guardiola says hat-trick hero Raheem Sterling can still improve further and it will be up to the Manchester City forward as to whether he fulfils his potential and becomes a great of the game.

 

Sterling, 24, had a hand in all five goals, including an 11-minute hat-trick, as City romped to a 5-1 Champions League victory over Italian side Atalanta on Tuesday, to take his tally to 12 goals in 13 appearances this season.

His link-up play with Sergio Aguero and Phil Foden was at times breath-taking, leading to former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to suggest on BT Sport after the game he was now among the top five players in the world.

"How much better he can become depends on him," Guardiola told reporters.

"I think he has that desire to get better. I say all credit is for him. He’s a guy whose physicality is incredible.

"The day after a game, he could play another. He can play both sides, he’s fast, defensively he helps us a lot, he’s an extraordinary player."

City fell behind to a Ruslan Malinovsky penalty but reacted by stepping up the tempo after a slow start to overwhelm their visitors and make it three wins from three in the pool. They will seal a knockout place with a win at Atalanta on Nov. 6.

"It was an incredible effort because Atalanta have a lot of quality. They are a top team. That’s why I am so satisfied. Nine points, we need one more win to be in the next stage."

The only blemish on the night was a red card for teenager Foden, who had been excellent until two sloppy pieces of play saw him collect a couple of yellow cards in a six minute spell.

But Guardiola backed the 19-year-old and says it will be a lesson for him.

"With Phil, the important thing is not the red card but the way he played. He has to be a bit more clever when he has the first yellow.

"He has to live this kind of situation to understand. The first yellow card, be careful. The result was 5-1, but it could have been different if it had been 2-1 or 3-1. That experience is going to help him."

Mbappe proves his point with Champions League hat-trick

After being left out of the starting line-up in the Champions League on Wednesday, Kylian Mbappe said he wanted to prove Paris St Germain would find it hard to do without him and showed as much by coming off the bench to bag a hat-trick in a 5-0 away demolition of Club Brugge.

The 20-year-old came on early in the second half to deliver a virtuoso performance as the French champions moved to the cusp of qualification for the next stage, keeping their 100% record in Group A.

Although PSG were leading at half-time after Mauro Icardi’s early goal, they were finding it hard to assert themselves until Mbappe came on in the 52nd minute with a point to prove.

Mbappe has been battling with a hamstring injury and has had little game time this season and coach Thomas Tuchel warned beforehand he would not play for the entire 90 minutes of the match in Belgium.

 “I wanted to show that it's hard to do without me. I want to fight to keep my place and help the team,” Mbappe added.

Time on the treatment table had not sat well with the World Cup winner.

“Football is my passion, it's been two months that I could not play and I found that very frustrating. But I thank the medical staff, they took good care of me.

“I want to play every game, resume the pace and score goals. I want to go back to being 100%.”

Brugge will attest it did to take him long to show all the characteristics that make him one of the game’s most exciting players, not least the lightning speed that saw him cut through the home defence, plus the deft touches to finish.

His hat-trick came in 21 minutes as Brugge were blown away.

"It's an extraordinary result, because I'm convinced it's always very difficult to win a Champions League game,” added Tuchel on the club’s website (psg.fr).

“It was hard until we scored the second goal. That gave us confidence and we won the ball back more. Kylian coming off the bench did us good, but we mustn't forget the work done for 60 minutes before that.”

PSG meet Brugge again in their next Champions League game, hosting them on Nov. 6.

Thiago Silva calls Kylian Mbappe an 'incredible player'

Paris Saint-Germain's (PSG) captain Thiago Silva hailed Kylian Mbappe by terming him an 'incredible player' after the latter's hat-trick against Club Brugge on Wednesday.

PSG registered a massive 5-0 victory over Club Brugge in Champions League. Mbappe scored three goals while Mauro Icardi netted twice.

"He is well present, he is ready, he has gifts, I can't tell you more because he is an incredible player," Goal.com quoted Silva as saying.

France international Mbappe also became the youngest player to score 15 Champions League goals aged 20 years, 306 days.

PSG managed to score only one goal in the first half and Silva admitted to witnessing a 'very difficult' half.

"I'm very happy for him, for the team, for the way we played today. In the first half, it was very difficult, we knew it, but in the second half we were much more effective," Silva said.

"We had chances, we scored. Especially Kylian, this player is magnificent," he added.

PSG will now compete against Marseille in Ligue 1 on October 28.

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