Familiar foe Sterling the prime threat to Liverpool’s title charge

Sterling shot to fame as a teenager in the 2013/14 season as a rollercoaster ride took Liverpool agonisingly close to ending their long wait to win a league title. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Familiar foe Sterling the prime threat to Liverpool’s title charge

  • Sterling has flourished under Pep Guardiola

LONDON: Manchester City and Liverpool’s ascension to the two top dogs in the Premier League has seen every meeting in recent seasons met with increasing animosity, ahead of Sunday’s latest battle for supremacy.

No player bears the brunt of that bad blood more than Raheem Sterling on his return to Anfield.

Sterling shot to fame as a teenager in the 2013/14 season as a rollercoaster ride took Liverpool agonisingly close to ending their long wait to win a league title.

Two years later, he left in acrimonious circumstances with Liverpool going backwards on the field and disputes over his contract off it.

Four-and-a-half years on, there is no doubt who got the better end of the £50 million deal that took him to City.

Sterling has flourished under Pep Guardiola, becoming a vital part of City's two title-winning campaigns in the last two seasons, while Liverpool’s wait for a league crown has now stretched to 30 years.

The England international is one of many tales of what might have been for Liverpool over the past three decades, but is also symbolic of how times have changed at Anfield.

Sterling left just three months before Jurgen Klopp arrived to revitalise the Reds after a season in which they finished sixth, 17 points behind City.

Liverpool have still yet to finish above the English champions in Klopp's four seasons in charge, but the gap was down to a single point as City edged a titanic title race last season. And it is Liverpool who will start Sunday's top-of-the-table clash with an early six-point lead over City in the title race.

Sterling cannot be faulted for a sloppier start to the season by Guardiola's men after two near-perfect campaigns.

For club and country, Sterling has already scored 18 goals in 20 appearances, including his first against Liverpool as City won the Community Shield in August.

“All the credit is for him,” said Guardiola after Sterling's recent Champions League hat-trick against Atalanta. 

“His physicality is incredible. He’s strong the day after the game, he could play another game. He can play on both sides, is fast, defensively help us a lot, so is an extraordinary player.”

Sterling's input at both ends of the field will be key if City are to somehow halt Liverpool's momentum and inflict a first league defeat at Anfield for the hosts since April 2017.

City's defence has been decimated by a long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte, while goalkeeper Ederson is a doubt.

Attack is likely to be the best form of defense for the visitors, but Sterling will also be forced to keep an eye on one of Liverpool’s most potent attacking outlets in right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

“He’s crucial for us, you need this type of player, a game-changing player, and he is probably the one player who can change everything for us,” said City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan on Sterling's influence.


Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

Updated 21 November 2019

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

  • FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track"
  • Said Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting popularity of motorsport

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s first female racing drivers believes motorsport is too male dominated and that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the sport.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.”

Al-Hamad, who is also the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said that while there are some women blazing a trail in the sport, more needs to be done by its authorities.

“There are Formula 1 drivers like Tatiana Calderón, team principles such as Susie Wolff and Claire Williams. We also have female mechanical engineers and in all kinds of positions, but they are just a few. 

“We need to use them as role models to encourage more young girls to become like these amazing women,” she added.

Al-Hamad, who has been passionate about cars since her youth, told Arab News that she is a fan of Formula 1 and a highlight of her career was being invited to drive an F1 car, but her driving idol was Michèle Mouton. 

“Because, back then in the 1980s, she competed in an all-men rally championship. And honestly, I don't think anyone did what she did at that time,” she said.

It is experiences like those that inspired her to forge a path for more women in motorsport and lead the way for female drivers in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Al-Hamad, who mixes racing with her interior design business, is one of the representatives on the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s “Women in Motorsport Commission”, which creates programs and initiatives to encourage more young girls to be inspired by the sport and consider it as a career.

“I won’t forget the day I got contacted by the president of the Federation asking me to join the board of directors, it's great because I have lots of difficulties in my career and it's so great to now build a foundation for these young women and ensure that they won't go through the struggles and the challenges I went through,” she said.

On the possibility of one day seeing a Saudi female world champion in major motorsport such as F1 and Formula E, she said: “Today, it is possible, especially when we are seeing how the government is very much supporting sports and women’s participation in sport. 

“We have just recently started and we're starting really fast. I won’t be surprised to see a champion soon competing in big international events.”

Al-Hamad also said the Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting the popularity of motorsport in the country and the wider region. 

“Maybe most of the people used to watch football. But, today, when we have such international motorsport event, so many people will get closer to the motorsport and understand the rules. 

“And maybe these young generations, when they attend the race, they might get inspired and become fans of motorsport.” She added.

The FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track,” the second time such an event has been held outside of Europe.

“This event is very much focused on encouraging young girls from eight to 18 years old to discover their talents and motorsport, hopefully it will inspire them to consider a career in motorsport,” Al-Hamad said. 

The event will include educational workshops to introduce girls to a range of topics -- from mechanical engineering to motorsport journalism, as well as opportunities to use racing simulators and to drive on a carting track.

The girls will also take part in a panel discussion with some figurehead females in motorsport including Susie Wolff, team principal of Venturi Formula E. 

“We've approached mostly schools and we sent them invitations to have girls register and hopefully they will discover their talents,” Al-Hamad said.

Her advice to young women is to achieve what they dream for, even if they are dreaming big.

“They might have some fears at the beginning, they might think it's impossible. But my advice to them is to take small steps and just think of the steps with time, they will be surprised that they actually achieve their dreams,” she said.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber.

The Taycan, which goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020, is the most powerful production electric model that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range, hitting 0-100kmh in 3.2 seconds.

On driving it, Al-Hamad said: “We wanted to test the performance of the car and it's great that we just arrived ahead of Porsche's debut in the Formula E this weekend.

“I love the handling, the feeling, it's a fast car, it has the same Porsche DNA in its interior and exterior. It is a beautiful car.”