Pep Guardiola confirmed he is worried about the absence of Raheem Sterling. The England international suffered a hamstring injury late in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham last weekend, and Guardiola called it a “problem” for his squad.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s game against West Ham, the Manchester City boss said Sterling is “weeks” away from a return and ominously recalled recent long-term injuries to Ilkay Gundogan and Aymeric Laporte, both of whom were sidelined for nearly a full season.
“It’s a hamstring injury, we will see,” Guardiola said of Sterling during his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester City’s home Premier League game against West Ham on Sunday. Sterling was already ruled out of this weekend’s match yesterday. “It takes weeks, but I don’t know [his status] right now.”
“It’s a problem being without him,” Guardiola continued, “but we were without Gundo in the first season and Laporte this season, it is what it is.”
Thankfully for City and Sterling, the injury comes well-timed with the February break upcoming. The club has its home match against West Ham this weekend and then does not re-take the field again until February 22 with a road visit to Leicester City. However, should Sterling’s injury linger, his status for the he return of Champions League play could be in jeopardy, with the first leg of City’s Round of 16 matchup against Real Madrid scheduled for February 26.
With Sterling’s absence looming, the possibility of fellow winger Leroy Sane returning from his ACL injury to take Sterling’s place was brought up, but Guardiola shot that down, saying that Sane is recovering well but will need an extended amount of time to regain full match fitness. “He’s started to train with us, he needs to recover the tempo and confidence, don’t think about the injury. It’s not like an ankle or a muscular injury, it needs time. He’s training with the main group, he needs weeks.”
Sterling has been a reliable workhorse over the past few seasons, logging over 2,500 Premier League minutes in each of the last three campaigns. Man City should cope with his injury relatively well, with Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez both fit and available to step in on the wings, and both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne also capable of deputizing out wide as well in a pinch.
The 25-year-old’s absence is also an issue for Gareth Southgate as well, with England already missing Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford long-term. While theoretically a hamstring injury shouldn’t keep Sterling from missing any international duty with the next game not scheduled until late March, muscle issues of this nature are always a worry, especially at a point in the season where fatigue begins to truly take a toll.