Juergen Klopp relaxed about going up against former Liverpool hero Raheem Sterling
Manchester City winger swapped Anfield for the Etihad in the summer
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling will be one of several players facing a former club when Liverpool visit on Saturday, but Reds manager Jurgen Klopp has played down the significance of the reunion.
Sterling, 20, felt the ire of Liverpool’s supporters after rejecting a contract offer from the club at the end of last season and subsequently joined City in a deal that could be worth up to £49 million (HK$580.3 million).
The England forward’s conduct was criticised by Liverpool greats including Steven Gerrard and Graeme Souness and he can expect a hostile reception from the away fans at the Etihad Stadium, but Klopp said it will be nothing that has not happened inside a football ground before.
“That’s football. It’s normal in football that former players play against their old club or whatever,” the German told his pre-game press conference.
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“It’s absolutely normal and nothing special. I don’t know how many friends Raheem had here or has here.
“He played here for a long time, had a good time here. I’ve heard no bad words about him. Good player, good boy, so (let’s be) friendly, shake hands, then it’s football.”
Liverpool drew the first three games of Klopp’s reign before reeling off three successive wins, including an impressive 3-1 victory away to defending champions Chelsea on the last day in October.
But they lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace in their last league game before the international break and go into the weekend seven points off the Champions League places in 10th place.
The consensus over the campaign’s opening weeks was that City were the division’s outstanding team as Manuel Pellegrini’s team won their first five matches without conceding a goal.
But their level has dipped since then as injuries have taken a toll and they have won only three of their last seven league matches, culminating in a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on their last outing.
It has allowed the chasing pack to close in and the concertina effect at the top of the table means that although City enter the weekend as leaders – above Arsenal on goal difference – they could be as low as fourth in the standings by the time the game kicks off.
The two-week international break has given Pellegrini time to recover some of his injured players and striker Sergio Aguero has revealed that he hopes to feature on Saturday after seven games out with a hamstring injury.
Aguero’s fellow striker Wilfried Bony is a doubt, but playmaker David Silva is also thought to be nearing a return after a seven-match absence with a knee problem.
Another player coming up against his former club will be James Milner, who left City for Liverpool during the close season, and Aguero is wary of the impact that the hard-working England midfielder might have.
“He’s a great player, though it will be odd to see him wearing another team’s colours,” the Argentine told the City website.
“He is a true professional and I’m sure he’s going to come against us with everything he’s got.”
While City’s fans will be delighted at the prospect of seeing Aguero back in a sky blue shirt, Liverpool could also welcome back their key striker if Daniel Sturridge can prove his fitness in time.
The former City man has not played for Klopp yet after hurting his knee in training, but the German said there was a chance he could feature.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is nearing a comeback after three months out with a heel problem and a broken foot, but he is not expected to be back in full training until next week.
Liverpool have not won at City in six league games – a run stretching back to October 2008 – but prevailed 2-1 when the sides last met at Anfield in March.