MANCHESTER, England -- Raheem Sterling showed his strength of character by taking the winning penalty in Manchester City's Carabao Cup victory over Chelsea, according to Pep Guardiola.
The England international was City's fifth penalty taker after Sunday's Wembley final finished goalless, and the City boss compared Sterling to an NBA star, who is prepared to take the clutch shot in a tight game.
"I admire the fact that, in Sunday's situation, he took responsibility," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's clash with West Ham on Wednesday. "The fact he said he wanted to hit the last penalty or even the first one, or take that responsibility, that means a lot.
"He's a young guy, 24 years old, and I think that is magnificent because I think he will enjoy his career more for himself. Of course, he helps us a lot, but he will retire and say: 'I took responsibility and I was brave with courage in the big moments.'
"These kinds of players are judged on these kinds of actions. In basketball, the last seconds, who is the taker in the last action? That makes the difference. The penalty in the final of the World Cup, who's the taker?
"So that is what makes the difference -- to have the feeling that, when everyone has doubts, says: 'I am going to do that.' That is massive."
Sterling has been in fantastic form this season with 15 goals and 15 assists in all competitions and has been spoken about as a potential Player of the Year candidate. The forward faced criticism for his performances before Guardiola's arrival and the ex-Barcelona boss said he shouldn't worry about receiving praise now that he is delivering impressive performances on a regular basis.
"He has to be not concerned or worried about that," Guardiola said. "All you have to do is, if people don't care about your value, to show them how good you are.
"The important thing is the opinion of the staff and, especially, his mates. The most satisfaction one player can get is when his mates give credit for what you do with them on and off the pitch. That is the best prize you can have as a footballer."
Meanwhile, Guardiola is facing a difficult decision ahead of the visit of West Ham that will see the return of former City boss Manuel Pellegrini to the Etihad Stadium for the first time.
John Stones, Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte are all ruled out with injuries as is midfielder Fernandinho. The Brazilian midfielder has missed just two Premier League games this season and both ended in defeats; but Guardiola is confident they can cope with his loss.
"Danilo can play there, we can play Gundogan, Fabian Delph, I think Oleks [Zinchenko] can play in that position, too," he said." So we can play with two players.
"Kevin [De Bruyne] can play there. We're going to find the right decision that hopefully works."