Southgate makes bold Chelsea prediction after leaving Sterling at home

Southgate opens up on Sterling's England omission

Gareth Southgate has backed a world-class Raheem Sterling to make Chelsea a European force again next season – after leaving him out of his England squad. The Three Lions boss spoke to the winger a week ago and agreed to his request to work on clearing up his hamstring injury rather than being part of the squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.

“I can’t see a scenario when Chelsea aren’t in the top six next year, really,” Southgate said. “I think they will progress. They have an outstanding squad, so they are going to have a good season and I’m sure he will be fundamental to that.

“If I was looking at him I would always back him to respond strongly and to have the resilience and tenacity to prove himself.

“He said himself earlier in the week he has not been happy with how it has been. That would be a temporary thing for sure. His mental toughness stands out in why I would expect him to come up at a good level.”

Things have not gone well for Sterling since his £50m summer move to Stamford Bridge and, after returning home when his house was burgled, Sterling found himself dropped from the World Cup side.

“I had to make calls during the World Cup where you’ve got to go with what you feel is right for the team,” Southgate said. “But that doesn’t mean that I don’t really appreciate the important goals he has scored for us, the big matches he has made the differences in, and the fact that he will do that again.”

At the other end of the experience scale, his replacement Eberechi Eze is the only member of the 25-man squad not to have been capped.

“He was very unfortunate [in March] because we were going to call him into a preparation camp and he got a bad injury,” Southgate recalled.

“He can play in a couple of positions across that attacking line, he’s a goal threat, he’s got nice ability and a burst of speed to go past people and to take people out of the game with dribbling skills.”

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