Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling is confident that Saturday will be the day he finally breaks his duck of having failed to score against Manchester United.
Initially criticised at the beginning of his career for lacking killer instinct, the forward, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Sunday, has become increasingly efficient in front of goal and last term notched 25 strikes in all competitions as City won the Premier League title.
However, the former Liverpool man has not scored against the Red Devils in 16 previous attempts, making them the only side that he has played more than seven times without scoring.
Nevertheless, he is confident that run can come to an end in Saturday’s derby as he aims to quieten his critics once again.
“It was a subject I kept hearing after games; that I don’t score enough and I’m not good enough in front of goal,” he told Sky Sports.
“When I first came onto the scene I wanted to show I had ability and that I was a good player. But I was never trying to be greedy in trying to win matches by myself.
“It was a wake-up call hearing all the critics saying he can’t score goals, so I thought I’d show them that I can. It’s something I started to work on and have belief.
“It’s a shift in mentality: in the dressing room I’d always think: ‘What am I going to do to the right back today – shall I nutmeg him? Maybe a step over?’
“But now it’s a straight mentality of trying to score and where a goal can come from.”
Third-placed City face an immense challenge in retaining their Premier League title, having fallen 11 points behind Liverpool, but Sterling is not ready to give up on another crown yet – even if Pep Guardiola has gone public to say his side are no longer thinking of that target.
“It’s one that none of us at the club are happy with but it’s happening now,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep focused and keep the belief – even if the manager doesn’t say it.
“It’s a long season and they are far ahead, credit to them, but it’s the Premier League. That’s why we’ve got to be prepared and ready as there’s some tricky games ahead for them. We’ve just got to keep focused and win our games to be with a shout if they do slip up.”
Sterling has 15 goals in 21 appearances for City this season, including eight in 14 Premier League outings.