Despite a resurgence in form, Manchester City are too far behind Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur to have any influence on the title race.
The Citizens dropped more points in the Premier league last night, drawing 1-1 at relegation threatened Newcastle United. They have only managed to win seven of their 17 games on the road this term, and Sterling feels that their defending is what is holding them back.
'"In order to make sure we grab third place we probably need to defend a little bit better," the former Liverpool winger said. "That's all of us as a group."
The return of club captain Vincent Kompany will surely improve City's defensive solidarity as they head into the final stretch of the campaign, and Sterling claims that their target is now to secure third spot in the league and gain automatic Champions League qualification.
"We know we want to get an automatic Champions League place next season and that's our target for this year," he said.
The England international has been absent from the first-team since March 20 after sustaining a groin strain against Manchester United, and he admits he is delighted to be back, after appearing as a 68th-minute substitute at St James' Park last night:
"Getting back on the pitch was the most important thing for me. It was important to see how I felt both off the field and back on it. It felt OK so I hope that I can carry on and get some more minutes under my belt."
Manuel Pellegrini's men are set to face Stoke City in the Premier League at the weekend, before they welcome Real Madrid to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie.