Raheem Sterling is fit to face Real Madrid on Wednesday, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.
England star Sterling has missed City’s past two matches with a hamstring problem but was recalled to the traveling squad for the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Guardiola has lauded Sterling’s powers of recovery, saying the player wanted to return to action earlier but was kept on the sidelines as a precaution.
“Raheem is fit,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday. “His natural, physical condition, regeneration is amazing. He said to us, ‘I could have played the West Ham game, the game against Leicester City’.
“The doctors told us to be careful. But it’s a good sign. He’s fit. He’s ready.”
One player who will not feature in the two legs is Eden Hazard, the Real Madrid winger having sustained an ankle fracture that could keep him out for much of the next two months.
Having seen the Belgium forward in action against his City side during his Chelsea career, Guardiola admits Hazard’s absence is a blow to the occasion.
“It’s very bad he’s not here,” Guardiola said. “I had the honour of enjoying, partly, and suffering him in England.
“When you see him loads you say, ‘what a player’. I’m convinced Madrid made a wonderful signing. I wish he were here and I wish him the best recovery because he’s a magnificent player.”
Guardiola described it as “a pleasure” to return to the Santiago Bernabeu, where he competed both as a player and head coach of Barcelona and when in charge of Bayern Munich.
“It’s one of the greatest places,” he said. “As a player here, I won and I lost; as a coach, I won and I lost. To play the Champions League here is an honour. I have to enjoy it; it’s all I can do.”