August 11, 2019 / 1:01 PM / 6 days ago

Man City's Guardiola backs 'special' Sterling to shine as striker

Soccer Football - Premier League - West Ham United v Manchester City - London Stadium, London, Britain - August 10, 2019 Manchester City's Raheem Sterling scores their third goal Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

(Reuters) - Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling’s improving physicality and finesse can help him excel as a central striker when he is deployed in the role, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

England international Sterling scored a superb hat-trick as the champions kicked off their Premier League defence with a convincing 5-0 victory at West Ham United.

Guardiola said that Sterling, who began the contest on the left of their attacking trident after record goalscorer Sergio Aguero dropped to the bench, had the versatility to perform in any position across the forward line.

“Since we started this season in China and the Community Shield he’s scored one goal minimum every game,” Spaniard Guardiola told City’s website.

“On the first day he played as a striker and for me striker will be an incredible position for him. He can play in three positions up front.

“They’re incredibly talented players but they need the group.... When the team takes a step forward he plays better. But I know the special quality of the player, the consistent physicality and the finishing.”

Sterling, who was voted Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association last season, scored 25 goals in all competitions across the campaign.

City host Tottenham Hotspur in their next league game on Aug. 17.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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