Raheem Sterling accepts squad rotation at Manchester City
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling accepts his place in the starting line-up is not guaranteed and that means he has to work harder to achieve his ambitions at the club.
The England international was named as a substitute for the second time in three matches in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup quarter-final at home to Hull but came off the bench to help inspire a late rally to get them over the line against Championship opposition.
With the likes of David Silva now fully fit and £55million ($82.5m) summer signing Kevin de Bruyne – who scored twice against the Tigers – having a brilliant debut season, Sterling knows there is significant competition for places.
He knew that even before he left Liverpool nearly five months ago but it just means he has to seize every opportunity which comes his way.
"The players in the squad are capable of starting in any game and if the manager puts them out there, I am sure they will do the business," he told Press Association Sport.
"Obviously everyone wants to play every game but that cannot happen at this level, you have to get rotated at times and that is what happened.
"I was on the bench (against Hull) but when I come on the pitch, I have to try to contribute as much as I can for the team."
Sterling’s move to join Manuel Pellegrini’s side – for an initial cost of £44million ($66m) rising to £49million ($73.5m) – has been big in many ways with a change of city naturally following on from his transfer.
The 20-year-old relocated from Southport to Cheshire and is already starting to feel at home there.
"It’s been good. I like how quiet it is up here, [I live] out of the way of the city center and it is really good to get your head down, work and achieve what I want to achieve," he added.
Helping the side get to a Wembley final is next on the list and despite being somewhat flattered by the 4-1 scoreline against Hull, it showed that City are not just about cutting teams to shreds with incisive football.
"Getting into the semi-final is a good start," Sterling said.
"I thought we did well to grind out a result and once the second one went in, I thought more would go in and they did.
"Teams come and sit in against us because they know the quality we possess throughout the squad.
"Hull did that and we had to be patient, keep the 1-0 lead and when the second goal did come, it opened up more."
With progress to the Champions League knockout stages secured and a two-legged League Cup semi-final not scheduled for another month, it means full focus can be given to the league, which they lead on goal difference from surprise package Leicester.
A trip to Stoke awaits on Saturday and, after Tuesday’s visit of Borussia Monchengladbach, City have a run of Swansea (home), Arsenal (away), Sunderland (home), Leicester (away) and Watford (away) before knockout competitions return in January with their Capital One semi-final and FA Cup third round tie.
It presents a good opportunity to strengthen their position at the top.
"Now it is the most difficult time in the league with games coming thick and fast, one after the other, and we basically have to take it slow, win game after game and get a good run going," said Sterling.
The weekend trip will be an interesting one for the 20-year-old as his last visit to the Britannia Stadium was on the final day of the season when as an unused substitute – his relationship with then Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers seemed to be deteriorating by the day – he watched his team-mates get humiliated 6-1 in Steven Gerrard’s last match for the club.
"It was a crazy one. I wasn’t actually involved but that was a bad day at the office. It is always a difficult place to go," said the forward.
"The players will be looking to go there with the right mentality and try to get a grip from the beginning."