Mario Balotelli may have blown his first chance to impress the Liverpool faithful in Saturday’s defeat to Aston Villa, but manager Brendan Rodgers still believes he can handle the responsibility of being the Reds’ senior striker.
In the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Balotelli, 40/1 now with Paddy Power to finish top goalscorer in the football betting markets, was given the chance to lead the line against Villa at Anfield. However, after 71 frustrating minutes, the Italian was hauled off and replaced by Rickie Lambert. Rodgers claims that his preparations for the game had been hampered by illness but questions will be raised as to whether the Liverpool boss can really get the best out of Balotelli.
With just two games under his belt it is too early to say whether Rodgers’ gamble to sign Balotelli has paid off but the Northern Irishman will be desperate for a performance from him in the Champions League against minnows Ludogorets.
With Sturridge still out, Balotelli will start up top again looking to end a run of six club games without a goal. Having averaged a goal every other game at AC Milan, his current streak represents something of a mini crisis and Balotelli will be desperate to silence some of those critics already writing his obituary.
Rodgers feels he is the type of player who will relish the responsibility to be Liverpool’s main source of goals in the absence of Sturridge, claiming he has shown the necessary qualities on the training pitch.
While there is no reason to suspect Rodgers is lying, we have no idea as to how Balotelli has got on in training and he will be judged solely on what he produces on the field. Too often the Italian has looked lazy and disinterested and, while that has yet to happen at Liverpool, how long before those slumped shoulders return should he not score very soon?
Only Mario Balotelli can motivate Mario Balotelli; Rodgers and Liverpool are just along for the ride.