EPL

I wasn't living the way I should - Sterling improvement down to football 'obsession'

By Sports Desk December 06, 2019

Raheem Sterling believes he has transformed from a player who was not "living the way I should" into a football obsessive.

Sterling heads into Saturday's derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City's premier attacking threat, particularly in the injury-enforced absence of Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has become indispensable for club and country, converting his promise into prolific returns over recent seasons.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, former Liverpool star Sterling blossomed with 18 and 17 goals respectively in City's back-to-back Premier League triumphs in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The 24-year-old has eight in 14 top-flight outings this time around, the same number of goals he amassed during England's successful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

"It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said.

"I think now I'm living for football. I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself.

"You have every facility here so you have to use it to the best of your advantage to try to be the best you can be. I was decisive but I wasn't 100 per cent committed. I wasn't 100 per cent living the way I should be living to be a professional footballer. I realised that and changed it.

"You see the improvements on the pitch and so that's why you continue to do it. Because you see how you feel on the field and what your output is.

"You look at what your numbers are doing. It's a good thing and, as a professional, you have to learn, take it in your stride and keep learning. That’s all I do."

An uncomfortable number for City to look at right now is the 11-point gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's men won 3-1 when the sides met at Anfield last month and have only dropped two points all season, although Sterling is not giving up on three consecutive league titles just yet.

"We just need to keep winning games and hope they lose some," he said.

"It's as simple as that. They're playing some good football at the moment, but it's a long season. We have got to keep winning, keep believing.

"Football is a funny game and in one moment it can change. You have to be ready. At the moment, they're leading, and we just have to keep working and keep winning."

First of all, that means no slip ups against United, who won two and drew one of the previous three derbies at the Etihad Stadium before City ran out 3-1 winners last term.

"We're always fighting against each other to be the number one team in the city," Sterling added.

"That's always a great thing to do. Both teams have great players and great managers; I think this weekend we'll show nothing less.

"Playing against United is always difficult and we know it'll be a tough game."

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    But for Barcelona, the shame, the recklessness of it, the lack of spine. These footballing invertebrates will return to Catalonia not to fanfare but in disgrace.

    They were possibly due a comeuppance, and here it was writ large.

    "A humiliation for history" said the Spanish newspaper Marca on its website at full-time. The Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo said it was an "historic debacle".

    That scoreline. 8-2. Eight-two. Barcelona shipped eight goals. Everywhere you looked, history was mentioned.

    This team surely is history, and as for the coach... Quique Setien must know what comes next.

    You needed no hyperbole on this evening. Barcelona were atrocious and the scoreline perfectly reflected that. Bayern were not flattered by eight.

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    No wonder defender Gerard Pique said he and every Barcelona player felt "pain". No wonder he suggested "changes" are required.

    What changes though? Not for the first time on Friday evening, Pique couldn't find a substantial answer.

    He was right though: it was "shameful" and Barcelona do need "changes at all levels", as he told Movistar, albeit without explicitly suggesting just who should be changed.

    Sacking Setien seems inevitable but may solve very little, and it feels harsh to make him the scapegoat for this implosion.

    In seven months at Camp Nou, the 61-year-old former Real Betis boss has seen Barcelona's players frequently let the club down, and any incoming coach may do well to sound him out on their first day.

    The club have a €671million sport salary limit. Never mind 'Mes que un club', that's 'Mes que the GDP of Tonga', among other nations, and Barcelona are frittering it away. Antoine Griezmann apparently played the second half of this game.

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    Barca slumped to a remarkable 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday, as a frustrating season ended on a dismal note.

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