LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City possess the steel to grind out results in the Premier League title race and are ready to out-battle leaders Chelsea on Saturday, according to forward Raheem Sterling.
Pep Guardiola’s third-placed side host Antonio Conte’s in-form Blues on Saturday knowing victory would put them top, for 24 hours at least.
“Most of the teams that cause us problems do so by playing more direct with long balls, they probably think we don’t fancy it but we want to win the league so we’re up for a fight,” England international Sterling said.
”We’re together as a whole and we know we can grind out a result. That’s the most important thing.
“If you want to be up there at the end of the season fighting for the title then you have to be competing in games like this against your big rivals.”
Guardiola’s team have lost only once in the league this season, winning nine and drawing three, but have only kept two clean sheets in 13 matches.
Chelsea have kept six in their last seven games - all wins - so Sterling is expecting chances to be at a premium.
“Chelsea are solid at the back and in the attacking areas they have great players who can win a game,” he said.
”We just need to play our football. We know how we can play and how we have been playing throughout the season. We just need to buy-in to the manager’s tactics and go out there and fight.
“Hopefully, we can be the more clinical team on the day and take our chances.”
While Sterling has impressed under Guardiola, City’s main goal threat remains Sergio Aguero who has scored 10 league goals this season, the same as Chelsea’s Diego Costa.
Aguero scored four times against Chelsea last season, including a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, and Sterling believes he is key to City’s hopes of winning the title.
“In the games where it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a goal he comes out of the blue. Whether it’s a tap-in or a 30-yard screamer, he’s got all sorts of finishes,” said Sterling, who has four league goals this season, only two less than he managed in the whole of last season.
“He’s an amazing, world-class striker. His goals are always vital, he scores the decisive goals and that’s the sort of player that you need in your team.”
Chelsea travel to the North West having lost six of their last eight games at City in all competitions but are on their best winning streak in a single season since 2006-07.
Editing by Ed Osmond