RAHEEM STERLING is in a race against time to be fit for Manchester City’s huge Euro clash with Real Madrid.
The England forward hobbled off six minutes from the end of Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Tottenham.
Sterling had tests on the hamstring problem as Pep Guardiola’s squad reported for training yesterday and he is expected to be out for two or three weeks.
That makes him a big doubt for the first leg of City’s Champions League last-16 showdown at the Bernabeu on February 26 — but the player is determined to win his fitness battle.
Sterling has ambitions to play in Spain one day and his previous meetings with the LaLiga giants have ended in frustration. He was a second-half sub when Liverpool played at the Bernabeu in November 2014 as ex-boss Brendan Rodgers rotated his squad.
Then, in May 2016, he was benched again until just after the hour as City came up just short in the semi-final.
Both games ended in a 1-0 defeat and Sterling hopes it can be different this time with himself a key player.
The £49million ace looks certain to miss the Premier League visit of West Ham on Sunday — after which his club have a 13-day winter break.
City return to action at Leicester on February 22 then four days later will be in Madrid. The Carabao Cup final is the following Sunday and Sterling is always keen to play at Wembley having been brought up nearby.
Guardiola will be relieved to hear the injury is not too serious as his team are still chasing three trophies despite conceding the title to Liverpool.
Spurs star Dele Alli, meanwhile, says he bears no hard feelings towards Sterling after his England team-mate’s horror lunge on Sunday.
Sterling was lucky to escape a red card after VAR reviewed his over-the-top tackle on the Tottenham ace’s ankle which Jose Mourinho insisted should have resulted in a sending-off.
But Dele said: “I have not had a proper look back at it, it is obviously for the ref and VAR to make the decision. There are no hard feelings. Definitely not.
“We were speaking about it at half-time and we’re good friends. I know what sort of player Raheem is and he would never intentionally try to hurt someone.
“It is football and these things happen so I know it was nothing intentional — he is not a player like that.”
Despite the knock, Dele, 23, carried on playing until he was replaced by Tanguy Ndombele in the 70th minute.
Dele added: “It was a bit sore in the game but hopefully it is not too bad.”