Pep Guardiola insists he has no concerns about Raheem Sterling’s form, despite preferring others in Manchester City’s recent run of fine form.
England international Sterling has started just two of City’s last eight games in all competitions.
The 26-year-old sat out all but the last two minutes of Wednesday’s memorable Champions League victory over Borussia Dortmund having remained on the bench throughout the first leg of that quarter-final tie last week.
Others, notably Phil Foden, have shone in his place but Guardiola claims that does not indicate Sterling has fallen down the pecking order.
The City manager said: “The trust with Raheem is intact. It is the same as when we arrived here.
“He has our confidence and the quality is there. I cannot give the players confidence, they have to have it for themselves, but ‘Rash’ has a lot of experience.
“What we’ve done these incredible years, with the amount of titles won and how many records we have broken in the process, Raheem was key and is a key player.
“But, in this moment, Phil and Riyad (Mahrez) are playing really good. That’s the only reason why and they know it.”
City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple continues as they face Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday.
They will return to the national stadium the following weekend for the Carabao Cup final, in which they take on Tottenham.
Guardiola has urged his players to embrace the pressure.
“It is a privilege,” said the Spaniard, whose side are also 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
“Tough? It’s completely the opposite. It’s the best part of the season and the best part of their careers. It doesn’t matter (if we) win or lose, it is still the best moment.
Pep: We are not tired
“Do it with a smile. We are not tired. If you are tired, you don’t like this game.
“But at the same time as being a privilege I know right now we could finish without a title. I have a feeling (Manchester) United are in top form and you have to win games to win the Premier League.
“Everyone says it is impossible but in football anything can happen. We could lose four or five games in a row. In football it can happen.
“It has happened before, which is why you have to stay in the present.”
Guardiola has confirmed number two goalkeeper Zack Steffen will play against Chelsea in place of Ederson, as he has done in previous domestic cup ties this season.
He said: “Yes, he’ll start. Always I’ve done it like this. If he doesn’t play I’d lose the team and better to lose games than the team.”