UEFA European Championship Last 16
England vs Iceland (prediction: 2-1)
Roy Hodgson is ready to restore Raheem Sterling as a starting player for England in their last 16 match against Iceland after the Manchester City player received a personal intervention from his future coach Pep Guardiola.
The Catalan manager had decided to get in touch with Sterling after learning that one of the players in his future club suffered from abuse and mounting criticism in France.
Guardiola had made his admiration on Sterling clear even as the 21-year-old was left out following two erratic performances in the opening Group B fixtures against Russia and Wales.
He explained that it was important to block out negative thinking and encouraged Sterling to remember his better qualities as they prepare to work alongside each other in Manchester next season.
“As long as you work for me, I’ll fight for you,” Guardiola told him in a phone call. “Keep your head up, don’t worry, I know you’re a good player and you are a big part of my plans.”
Sterling will be expected to replace former Liverpool teammate Adam Lallana in the left side England’s front three, with Harry Kane operating centrally and Daniel Sturridge on the right.
Team captain Wayne Rooney will return to central midfield, with Tottenham Hotspur full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker returning for England’s defense.
Both Sturridge and Rooney had given votes of confidence to Sterling.
Another former club teammate, Sturridge believes that Sterling is “one of the most talented players in the world”.
“It is just a matter of time before you see him take his game to the next level and I am sure that will be very soon,” Sturridge said. “In the games he has played for England, he has not performed as badly as people have made out – he has done quite well.”