Pep Guardiola has hailed Raheem Sterling as an "incredible person" after the Manchester City and England winger spoke out amid allegations he was subjected to racist abuse.

Eden Hazard has offered public support to Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City forward was allegedly racially abused at Chelsea during a Premier League game.

Sterling was berated by a section of the Stamford Bridge crowd during Chelsea's 2-0 defeat of the Premier League champions, with the club subsequently suspending four people from attending matches pending further investigations.

The Metropolitan Police also launched an investigation into whether Sterling was racially abused by spectators and Hazard has backed the England international.

"The only thing I can say is I support the player. Sterling is a fantastic player," Hazard told Sky Sports.

"There is an investigation, so we don't know what will happen.

"Proper Chelsea fans just sing for Chelsea and enjoy the game.

"I am fully supportive of Raheem and this sort of racism cannot be in the stadium anymore."

Former England coach Gary Neville has revealed Sterling approached him asking for advice on how to cope with criticism during Euro 2016, where the Three Lions exited to Iceland in the last 16 and what were perceived to be his poor performances were highlighted in the media.

"He came to see me one on one in 2016, I think it was three or four days before the Iceland game," Neville said on Sky Sports. 

"Pre-tournament, I don't know if you remember, he was getting absolutely battered. Getting so much stick, we were aware of that. Fans were onto him, the media was onto him. Asking a lot of questions about him.

"It then continued into the tournament, into the stadiums, to the point where those groans and boos, little things. It takes a lot for a player to come and see a coach. I was in the analysis room, I remember the analysts leaving.

"He walked in and started to unload on me - why was this happening? Why was this so personally accepted? He'd accepted he'd get criticism for playing for England for his performance levels. He'd accepted he'd be scrutinised as an England player, he didn't want any special treatment.

"But that it was so vicious, he felt so targeted, he didn't know what to do about it. I saw someone that has a great mentality and is tough but is also vulnerable in terms of how does he deal with it, how does he cope with it, how does he come out of it?"

Sterling spoke out against the incident at Chelsea in an Instagram post where he highlighted the differing way reports on City youngsters Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo buying property for their parents were produced.

And Neville's assessment is the media's treatment of Sterling differs from when England players including David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Paul Gascoigne were pilloried by the press.

"Directly in that tournament [Euro 2016] Harry Kane, who is the blue-eyed boy of English football, he's a sensational player, we love him to bits," Neville continued. "He was having a difficult time in that tournament and it was portrayed [as being] because he was on corners.

"Raheem was having a difficult time and it was because of other reasons and more personal reasons at times, and the language used towards him was difficult. I don't think he could understand. I think he was asking me why this was happening.

"Post-tournament, we got knocked out and obviously it was bad from a football point of view. The abuse that he received, particularly in the media, beyond that tournament, and the language that was used against him, I've not seen it before, and I played closely with David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, I played with Paul Gascoigne at Euro 96. I've seen a lot over the years.

"I look back on that time now and think was I really walking by on the other side and not dealing with the real issue, is that the right reaction? He was willing to continue playing, he has continued to play at an outstanding level.

"But he's been carrying this now for years. This is not just on Sunday, not just a Chelsea fan. This has been going on for years about him, and I've known about this for years because he came to see me in 2016, so was it happening before that even?

"It's a really difficult situation where you think how would I deal with that again? How would I try and help him? Because he's a tough lad, he really is, to come through everything he's coming through and the scrutiny he's faced with. To perform like he has done is a miracle, almost."

Chelsea have suspended four people from attending the club's matches pending further investigations into allegations regarding the behaviour of supporters towards Manchester City's Raheem Sterling.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp has praised Raheem Sterling for the way he handled getting berated at Chelsea as the Metropolitan Police investigates whether the Manchester City forward was racially abused. 

Kick It Out chair Lord Herman Ouseley has called on football authorities to stamp out racism after Manchester City star Raheem Sterling was allegedly targeted by abuse during a Premier League game at Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling used social media to criticise the coverage that black players receive in the media after he was berated by Chelsea supporters in Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. 

Raheem Sterling used social media to criticise the coverage that black players receive in the media after he was berated by Chelsea supporters in Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. 

Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation in order to establish whether Sterling was racially abused in the incident, with the club vowing to take the "strongest possible action where necessary". 

The England international posted a message on Instagram along with pictures of newspaper articles regarding Manchester City team-mates Tosin Adarabioyo - who is on a season-long loan at Championship club West Brom - and Phil Foden, pointing to the different way in which the media covered the duo choosing to buy houses for their parents. 

"I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to [be] heard I will speak up," Sterling wrote.

"Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game, as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don't expect no better. 

"For example you have two young players starting out their careers. Both play for the same team, both have done the right thing which is buy a new house for their mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are. 

"But look how the newspapers get their message across for the young black player and then for the young white player. I think this is unacceptable, both innocent, have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. 

"This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour, so for all the newspapers that don't understand why people are racist in this day and age all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity and give all players an equal chance."

Raheem Sterling used social media to criticise the coverage that black players receive in the media after he was berated by Chelsea supporters in Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. 

Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation in order to establish whether Sterling was racially abused in the incident, with the club vowing to take the "strongest possible action where necessary". 

The England international posted a message on Instagram along with pictures of newspaper articles regarding Manchester City team-mates Tosin Adarabioyo - who is on a season-long loan at Championship club West Brom - and Phil Foden, pointing to the different way in which the media covered the duo choosing to buy houses for their parents. 

"I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to [be] heard I will speak up," Sterling wrote.

"Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game, as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don't expect no better. 

"For example you have two young players starting out their careers. Both play for the same team, both have done the right thing which is buy a new house for their mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are. 

"But look how the newspapers get their message across for the young black player and then for the young white player. I think this is unacceptable, both innocent, have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. 

"This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour, so for all the newspapers that don't understand why people are racist in this day and age all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity and give all players an equal chance."

Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police are investigating whether Raheem Sterling was racially abused during the Blues' 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday.

Television footage appeared to show spectators in the front row at Stamford Bridge berating the City winger, prompting allegations that some of the words were racially motivated.

Chelsea have vowed to take the "strongest possible action where necessary", while a police statement confirmed the widely circulated video was being reviewed, although no arrests have yet been made. 

"We are aware of a video circulating online in which it is claimed racial abuse was allegedly directed at a player at a Chelsea v Manchester City game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday 8 December," read the statement.

"We will review the footage to determine whether any offences have been committed."

 

Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police are investigating whether Raheem Sterling was racially abused during the Blues' 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday.

Television footage appeared to show spectators in the front row at Stamford Bridge berating the City winger, prompting allegations that some of the words were racially motivated.

Chelsea have vowed to take the "strongest possible action where necessary", while a police statement confirmed the widely circulated video was being reviewed, although no arrests have yet been made. 

"We are aware of a video circulating online in which it is claimed racial abuse was allegedly directed at a player at a Chelsea v Manchester City game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday 8 December," read the statement.

"We will review the footage to determine whether any offences have been committed."

 

Raheem Sterling will lead the line for Manchester City in the absence of Sergio Aguero against Chelsea, who start with Eden Hazard playing as a false nine.

Pep Guardiola opted for a pacey attacking trio of Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez and Sterling, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday, while Gabriel Jesus had to settle for a place among the substitutes.

Maurizio Sarri dropped Alvaro Morata from the side that lost 2-1 to Wolves in midweek and opted for Hazard alongside Willian and Pedro in attack.

Chelsea go into the game desperate for three points after a disappointing result at Molineux that came in the away game after their 3-1 reverse against Tottenham.

City, meanwhile need a victory to reclaim top spot in the Premier League from Liverpool.

Luka Modric's Ballon d'Or triumph on the back of a stunning year with Real Madrid and Croatia marks the end of an era for world football's most coveted global prize.

For the first time since Brazil midfielder Kaka won in 2007, a man other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo has been crowned the best male footballer in the world. Indeed, Messi missed out on a top-three place for the first time since 2006.

Both superstars remain somewhere close to the peak of their powers and may well find themselves back at the summit 12 months from now.

Nevertheless, Modric breaking the Messi-Ronaldo streak means the Ballon d'Or now looks more of a possibility for other players shining at the elite level. We look at six who, if everything falls into place, could take home the trophy in 2019.

Neymar

The next winner of the Ballon d'Or after Messi and Ronaldo not being called Neymar means the best-laid plans of the world's most expensive footballer have already gone awry. There have been moments of magic since his arrival at Paris Saint-Germain but also a frustrating World Cup. The processional nature of Ligue 1 means Neymar's 2019 hopes largely rest upon how much of an impression PSG can make on the Champions League. If Thomas Tuchel's side were to go all the way – they are yet to confirm progression from the group stage – and Neymar followed that up by leading Brazil to Copa America glory, he would have significant substance behind his claims.

Kylian Mbappe

Neymar's ambition is arguably hindered by Mbappe who, if this year's Ballon d'Or rankings are anything to go by, means he is not even the best forward plying his trade in Paris. Since bursting onto the scene with Monaco in 2016-17, teenager Mbappe has consistently thrilled admirers with pace, power and lavish skill. His demolition job on Argentina proved the stand-out individual showing in France's World Cup triumph. It feels like a case of when and not if Mbappe gets his hands on the trophy.

Antoine Griezmann

Of course, Mbappe might have at least one of his France international team-mates to reckon with. The best placed is Griezmann. He followed a brace in Atletico Madrid's Europa League final win over Marseille with four in Les Bleus' World Cup campaign. It meant a second podium finish in three years in the Ballon d'Or – if Atletico Madrid can prevail in an eminently winnable LaLiga or reach a Champions League final at their home stadium, Griezmann will be heading for the top step.

Raheem Sterling

Manchester City are setting a furious pace in their Premier League title defence. Kevin De Bruyne was the standout in their record-breaking campaign but, in the Belgian's injury absence this time around, Sterling has propelled himself to top billing. Eight goals and six assists so far give him a claim over being the outstanding player in England's top flight this season. Guardiola is right to identify Sterling's ample room for improvement. Should he score the goals to help City win an as-yet elusive Champions League before propelling England to an inaugural Nations League crown, the 23-year-old would certainly be in Ballon d'Or contention.

Mohamed Salah

A scarcely credible haul of 44 goals in all competitions for Liverpool last season means Salah could perhaps feel aggrieved over only being sixth in the final reckoning this year. The Egypt forward has quietly chalked up nine this term without yet hitting his best form. Liverpool are clinging manfully on to City's coattails in England – if Salah can crank through the gears and inspire a famous title triumph his star will never have been higher. 

Luis Suarez

As demonstrated by Modric, a Ballon d'Or winner does not have to bolt youthfully from the pack. A willingness to reward a career-long body of work could stand Suarez in good stead. His brilliant hat-trick as Messi sat out the recent Clasico thumping of Real Madrid underlined the striker's enduring quality. Breaking Los Blancos' grip on the Champions League will no doubt be a priority before Suarez leads a talent-stacked Uruguay generation at the 2019 Copa America. Like Modric's Croatia, it is probably their last tournament as a much-celebrated collective – as such, victory would resonate all the more strongly.

Raheem Sterling can improve on the sparkling form he has shown for Manchester City this season, according to manager Pep Guardiola. 

Pep Guardiola insists he will take no risks with Sergio Aguero's fitness when Manchester City visit Watford on Tuesday.

The Premier League leaders battled to a 3-1 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, with Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan on target as City's all-time top scorer Aguero looked on from the stands.

Before the match, Guardiola confirmed the Argentina striker was resting up due to a "muscular disturbance" and afterwards conceded there are no guarantees he will return in midweek.

"We will see the day after tomorrow [Monday]. We do not want to take any risks," said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

"If Sergio becomes injured we will lose him for a long number of days and we can't afford to do that."

In Aguero's absence, Sterling produced the game-breaking contribution and moved level with his esteemed team-mate on eight Premier League goals this season.

The England winger has also eight in six top-flight appearances against Bournemouth and Guardiola pointed to a mazy dribble and shot against the post shortly before Sterling's goal as the moment City roused from a mid-game slumber that saw Callum Wilson cancel out Silva's opener.

"In the second half, the action from Raheem changed the game," he said.

"From that our crowd was with us. In the first half it was silent and we have to help our fans. They are not going to help us if we don't help them.

"Also, Fabian Delph [on for the injured Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back] helped us to find our rhythm and the second half was much, much better.

"Sometimes it is complicated. Here [in the head] we always have to be ready.

"Raheem, for example, in the first half was not involved. In the second half he changed the game."

Guardiola's opposite number Eddie Howe was left to rue a missed opportunity, with Bournemouth pushing City far harder than on their previous visits to the Etihad Stadium – three matches in which they ran up an aggregate scoreline of 13-1 against.

"We knew we were going to be without the ball for long periods of the game. You have to accept that when you come here," Howe said.

"We went behind and responded really well. Even in the second half we had moments. The goals were scrappy. They didn't really cut through us with beautiful football and we kick ourselves for that.

"I wouldn't say we let ourselves down. The plan worked and we're frustrated because we had good moments. I think we learn every time we come here and this is the closest we have come.

"We haven't been outplayed for many moments of the game. It's just the key moments where we haven't been clinical."

Raheem Sterling again proved the scourge of Bournemouth as he helped Manchester City to a 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.

The Premier League leaders hit the front through Bernardo Silva's 16th-minute opener but an XI featuring five changes from Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League draw at Lyon did not have things their own way.

Callum Wilson found a deserved equaliser but Bournemouth were sunk by a familiar foe.

Sterling's 57th-minute goal was his eighth in six top-flight appearances against Eddie Howe's side and Ilkay Gundogan's simple finish 10 minutes from time meant an uneven outing ended with City extending their lead at the summit to five points.

Bournemouth were bright initially, with Wilson unable to turn home Ryan Fraser's low cross from a clever short corner, but City soon established control.

Gabriel Jesus, starting in front of Sergio Aguero, stretched to prod wide from Oleksandr Zinchenko's delivery and the Ukraine international's ball over the top of the Cherries defence brought out Asmir Begovic to thwart Leroy Sane. Silva was on hand to crash home the loose ball.

City goalkeeper Ederson pushed to safety when Wilson failed to get a decisive touch on Josh King's inswinging cross, but he could not keep out the England striker's powerful 44th-minute header.

Zinchenko was forced off with badly damaged nose, having inadvertently clashed with his captain Fernandinho, while Sterling sought to get City going through a mazy dribble that ended with his deflected shot coming back off the upright.

The England winger's ninth goal of the season owed more to opportunism than ingenuity, however, as Begovic clumsily spilt Danilo's shot for him to find the roof of the net.

Fernandinho slid a left-footed shot narrowly wide, meaning Ederson's scrambled near-post save from Wilson came with nerves jangling.

But Sane engineered space down the left to tee up compatriot Gundogan, allowing Pep Guardiola to breath easily.
 

What it means: City given a warning for the second time in a week

Guardiola cautioned his players that their dominant record at home to Bournemouth – the three previous Premier League editions of this fixture returned an aggregate of 13-1 to City – counted for little but, as in the draw at Lyon, they showed defensive fallibility. They nevertheless continue to set a relentless pace in their title defence, with Liverpool needing a win in Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton to remain within touching distance.

Wilson shows his class

Aymeric Laporte has a claim to being the Premier League's outstanding defender this season but the Frenchman and his centre-back partner Nicolas Otamendi endured a thorough examination from the excellent Wilson. Recently capped by England, the striker's pace, power and intelligent movement caught the eye alongside his seventh league goal of the season – one fewer than the division's joint-top scorer Sterling.

Jesus grasping for his best form

Sterling's growing reliability as a goalscorer proved invaluable to City as Jesus failed to take his chance in Aguero's absence. The Brazil striker's recent hat-trick against Shakhtar Donetsk was bolstered by two penalties and he looks short of confidence in open play, his instincts dulled as the hangover of a goalless World Cup continued to linger.

What's next

City will travel to Watford with Aguero potentially fit to return on Tuesday, when Bournemouth entertain Huddersfield Town.

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