Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has backed Raheem Sterling to play a key role for England at the Euros despite another blank shot for Manchester City this weekend.
The forward saw his club-level scoring drought stretch to 11 games after Saturday’s 2-0 win at Selhurst Park.
Sterling’s indifferent form left him on the bench for City’s midweek victory over Paris Saint-Germain and he failed to make the most of his starting spot in London.
Hodgson made his international debut at the 26-year-old as England manager in 2012 and is confident the winger can remain a key figure for Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020 next month.
“I’m a big fan of Raheem, I think he’s a great player,” Hodgson said. “It’s a wonderful position to have if you’re Pep Guardiola and think you have other players you’d rather use against Raheem.
“But I’m pretty sure when it comes to England he will always be an important player and a big cog in the wheel because he has so much ability.
“The skills he has and the ability he has to beat people, take goal positions, score and create chances, these are skills that are hard to come by.
“And Raheem has a great quality, and one that I’ve always admired about him is that he’s not a player who just stands up there and waits for the ball to come to him.”
“He makes sure he goes looking for him and when he loses he gets him back and plays an important role in the team’s defensive work.
“These are things that coaches expect from our players these days, but it’s not always easy to get it.”
Pep: Sterling must be ready
Sterling started City’s recent Carabao Cup triumph at Wembley, but wasted three big opportunities against Palace, erupting early before slicing under pressure in the area, and later in the game he hit the inside of the pole at a tight angle.
The final effort summed up the luck of the former Liverpool striker, who has scored twice for England this season and found the net 13 times for City.
As he finished with more than double that total in each of the last two campaigns, Guardiola warned Sterling to be ready for his next chance.
“He deserved to play in Paris but it’s unfair if I leave Phil (Foden) or Riyad (Mahrez) now. It’s difficult for me. I justify my decisions and I don’t want to,” admitted the director of the city.
“Raheem has played exceptionally in the last two games and he has to be ready because we have a final and maybe he will play several minutes from the start.
“Maybe if we get to the Champions League final … everyone can play. That’s why for many years the commitment is there to be able to be where we won all those titles. “
City enter Tuesday’s semi-final second leg with the upper hand after a return win at PSG last week.
The Ligue 1 squad could do without star striker Kylian Mbappe, who missed his 2-1 win over Lens on Saturday with a calf injury.
Even with the Manchester club holding a one-goal advantage, Guardiola will ask his players to try another win.
He added: “We have to do our job on Tuesday and have an almost perfect performance to reach the final.
“We play a team with the most talented players up front. It’s not just one, not just two, it’s three – even three and a half.”
“They can win the games in one action. We have to play as a team with (an) amazing mentality to play to win. We have to be more aggressive to try to win the game. That’s why everyone’s commitment is here. . “