Betting: Balotelli 2/1 to make a dream debut for Liverpool against Spurs on Sunday

August 29th, 2014

While the Reds’ hig profile new signing is sure to take centre stage at White Hart Lane, Al Hain-Cole sees better value in backing Tottenham’s own controversial forward to score


Having returned to the Premier League in one of the summer’s most high-profile transfers, Liverpool fans will be praying that Mario Balotelli can rack up more goals than he does column inches this time around.
With controversy never far away, the Italy international will look to make the headlines for the right reasons when he makes his debut against Tottenham on Sunday, as Unibet offer 2/1 (3.00) odds on him finding the net and 27/5 (6.40) to open the scoring.

One question mark surrounding Balotelli’s signature is how he will link up with Daniel Sturridge, whose productive partnership with Luis Suarez helped him to an impressive return of 35 goals in his first 49 matches for the Reds.

Should he enjoy a similar relationship with his new strike partner then odds of 8/5 (2.60) should prove extremely generous on him scoring anytime at White Hart Lane, as would 9/2 (5.50) on him breaking the deadlock.

However, Raheem Sterling’s continued development means that the front two are not the only ones capable of hurting the hosts, with odds of 47/20 (3.35) well worth considering on the exciting youngster finding a fifth goal in eight league matches.

While they may have scored nine times without conceding against Spurs in last season’s Premier League encounters, Brendan Rodgers’ men will surely find life far more difficult with Mauricio Pochettino in the opposition dugout.

The new manager has overseen four consecutive wins in all competitions so far, with 10 goals scored and just one conceded, thanks to the well organised pressing game he showcased at Southampton.

This team dynamic has seen goals come from all over the pitch so far, but Emmanuel Adebayor still represents the best value at 7/4 (2.75) to grab a 13th goal in just his last 23 league outings, having struck twice in his last home match against Liverpool.

Alternatively, Nacer Chadli offers excellent value at 39/10 (4.90) to get on the score sheet after grabbing two against QPR last weekend, while Eric Dier can be backed at 6/1 (7.00) to continue his surprising record of two in two from defence.

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Sign up with Unibet and get a free bet of up to £20Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.

Balotelli will play against Tottenham – Rodgers

August 27th, 2014

The Liverpool boss says his new €20m man is in “very, very good condition” and is ready to make his debut at White Hart Lane on Sunday

Brendan Rodgers has revealed that Mario Balotelli will be in contention to make his Liverpool debut at Tottenham on Sunday.

The Italy striker joined the Merseyside club from AC Milan on Monday, but was not signed in time to feature in the 3-1 defeat against his former club Manchester City later that day.

Liverpool manager Rodgers, however, says he is preparing to hand Balotelli his first game in a Liverpool jersey against Tottenham on Sunday. 

“I think by the weekend [he'll be ready to play],” he told the club’s official website.

“He’s been into pre-season and he’s played three 45-minute games. He might not be up to full match speed, but he’s looking fit.

“We’ve done some analysis on him. The medical and sports science team have worked with him already and he’s in very, very good condition.

“He’s in to work and he’ll be available for the squad for the weekend.”

Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge believes Balotelli could become an “iconic” figure at Anfield.

He told the club’s official website: ”He provides another option and we’ve got a lot of games this season, so Brendan has plenty of options now.

“The manager will have a plan. It could be Balotelli going through the middle with Daniel [Sturridge] playing off him or out wide, as he did to great effect last season.

“He could be phenomenal and he’s the type of player who will be endearing to the fans. He could be iconic.”
 

Are Balotelli & Liverpool already on a collision course?

August 27th, 2014

SPECIAL REPORT: The Reds want the striker to live in the quieter areas of Merseyside, but he is hoping to stay closer to the city centre or even Manchester


By Paul Clennam

Liverpool are already discovering just how much of a fight they could be facing in their bid to tame Mario Balotelli.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers admitted that signing the controversial 24-year-old from AC Milan was a “calculated risk” and believes he can get the best out of the striker.

But just two days into life as a Liverpool player Balotelli is already butting heads with the club over where he will live for his second spell in England.

As part of Rodgers’ plan to keep the striker out of the headlines, the club are keen to house him close to Liverpool and around a number of his new team-mates.

Captain Steven Gerrard lives in Formby and club chiefs hope the experienced midfielder can help to keep an eye on Balotelli if he moves in nearby.

The Anfield club have lined up a number of viewings for some plush pads in the area on Wednesday, but Balotelli is digging his heels in and wants to be closer to the hustle and bustle of city life.

But not necessarily Liverpool city life; the Italian is keen to base his young family closer to his previous €17,600-per-month mansion in Alderley Edge, Chesire, roughly 50 miles from Formby and much closer to Manchester.

The striker is currently staying at the Lowry Hotel in the centre of Manchester – just over the river from Carlos Tevez’s favourite local restuarant – and his mother still lives up the road in Wythenshawe, just eight miles from his old mansion.

Balotelli forged a reputation as an eccentric character in England during his time at Manchester City, with tales of setting off fireworks from his bedroom window at ‘The Lodge’, throwing darts at youth team players and going shopping at John Lewis to buy an ironing board and coming back with a quad bike.

He was unhurt after crashing his Bentley near Deansgate Locks in 2012, and later hit out at English life upon his arrival at AC Milan last January.

“Good things? Only when I get to Carrington to train, so my team-mates and manager,” he said.
“Bad things? Everything else – press, weather, food, the way you drive.”

But now he is back and Liverpool have been made well aware of Balotelli’s constant need for stimulation off the pitch, and they plan to set up a number of activities to help keep him occupied.

Unlike many footballers, though, the former AC Milan man ‘hates’ golf and would rather drive his luxury cars around town or go shopping.

During his second spell in Milan he posted a picture of himself posing with a gun on Instagram, sparking outrage in Italy. On another occasion he refused to sign autographs for some Rossonerri fans in Switzerland, prompting them to cover his car in toilet paper.

Liverpool’s approach highlights how far they are willing to go to get the best out of their latest investment and the man charged with replacing Luis Suarez.

Rodgers and the club know that they will have to do all they can to harness the 24-year-old’s potential, and have already shown great attention to detail in monitoring how he lives his life beyond training at Melwood and matches at Anfield.

But with Balotelli already making it known he wants to live life on his own terms, Liverpool may well have a battle on their hands.
 

Balotelli sale leaves clueless AC Milan in no man's land

August 26th, 2014

The Rossoneri have cut ties with the controversial striker, but they need to replace him and have little money with which to do so after such a cheap sale


COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent

When Mario Balotelli arrived at Milan, he spoke as though they had saved him from his own personal hell.

“I will miss being at Carrington with my Manchester City team-mates, the manager and the fans. In everything else I am happy that I have left England.

“I don’t like the press, the weather, the food, or the driving.

“I don’t know if I maybe can go back in the future, but right now I want to play here.”

Just 18 months later, though, he was ready to embrace all of those negative aspects of life in England once more in a bid to end his spell with the Rossoneri. He was meant to be coming home when he joined the club he had supported as a youngster.

This was supposed to be for the benefit of both the player and the organisation, but in the end it suited nobody and Balotelli couldn’t get out quick enough. Now he is a Liverpool player, and the club of his heart have only €20 million to show for it.

So wrong did the transfer turn out to be for Milan that they sold their best player on the cheap. And this at a time when they should have been protecting their assets or getting the highest price possible for their stock.

As a buying club, the Diavolo was one of the best for a very long time. Top stars such as Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, George Weah, Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko were brought in to maintain their standing as one of the world’s front-runners.

But now they are neither a buying club nor a selling club. Selling clubs generally don’t sell at all unless they get the right price. Milan are stuck in no man’s land. They have failed to get the best price for any of their big assets in recent years.

Andrea Pirlo was sent away on a free transfer. Thiago Silva was signed up to a new contract before being sold for less than the price they had originally rejected. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sold for just €21m on the back of a 35-goal season in which he’d proved to be the club’s single most important player.

And now, the last piece of family silver has been flogged at a knock-down price when the club desperately needs money to strengthen its hopes of returning to the top of the Italian game.

POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS | Who might Milan sign?
PLAYER
CLUB
VALUE*
Leandro Damiao Santos €16m
Mattia Destro Roma €17m
Fred Fluminense €7m
Jo Atletico Mineiro €4m
Jackson Martinez Porto €30m
Alvaro Negredo Manchester City €24m
Fernando Torres Chelsea €12m
*Figures from transfermarkt

How did things go so wrong between Balotelli and Milan that a club who have been struggling to make ends meet throughout the Financial Fair Play era thought it a good idea to allow their biggest asset to leave for a fee that does absolutely nothing for them.

Signing Balotelli was meant to be the beginning of a new Milan, with the Italy striker as the centrepiece of a more austere approach. But all it did was underline the club’s cluelessness in the market.

Jackson Martinez has been mentioned as a potential replacement up front, so too Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negredo and Mattia Destro. But are any of those players really a possibility when Adriano Galliani et al have dealt so badly in recent times? Why would any of them want to join a mid-table Serie A outfit with a mid-table Serie A mentality?

The Ibrahimovic money was wasted on the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini and Francesco Acerbi. Does anybody truly trust the Balotelli cash to be used any more wisely?

Sure, they have saved some money on the striker’s €4m annual base salary, but they will need to match that at the very least if they are to attract a player to take them forward on the pitch.

The sale of Balotelli is an admission that they could not manage a talented but troubled player. But more than that, it proves that Milan are no longer swimming with the big fish and neither are they capable of using the market to work for them.

It is hard to know exactly where Milan go from here.

Follow Kris Voakes on

Balotelli arrival gives Liverpool a big lift – Henderson

August 26th, 2014

The striker completed his sensational €20 million move to Anfield from AC Milan on Monday and has been backed to make a major impact in the Premier League this season


Mario Balotelli’s arrival at Liverpool will provide the team with a “big lift”, according to midfielder Jordan Henderson.

The Merseyside club sensationally brought controversial ex-Manchester City striker Balotelli back to the Premier League from AC Milan in a €20 million deal on Monday.

Balotelli was not registered in time to feature against his former club at the Etihad Stadium later in the day, but watched from the stands as his new side were beaten 3-1 by City.

The 24-year-old met his Liverpool team-mates prior to the game, and could be in line to make his debut at Tottenham on Sunday.

And Henderson feels the Italy international will inject some extra impetus into a Liverpool attack shorn of last season’s star man Luis Suarez.

“Everyone is looking forward to working with Mario,” Henderson told the Liverpool Echo.

“He’s a very talented striker and a big player. Hopefully he’ll give us all a big lift and be able to play some part in the next game.

“He was in the dressing room before the game wishing everyone luck.

“Hopefully he can get a week’s training under his belt and be involved against Tottenham.”

Liverpool looked comfortable for much of the first half of Monday’s match, before a defensive lapse from new signing Alberto Moreno allowed Stevan Jovetic to give City the lead shortly before the break.

But Henderson was pleased with the performance as a whole and believes the Reds can take plenty of positives from the fixture.

“I thought we dominated the first 40 minutes,” he added.

“To be 1-0 down at half-time was tough to take… I felt as though we were in control of the game but then they scored a second and it was difficult.

“We will watch it all again and work on the things that need to be worked on in training.

“We’ve got the players here so it’s just a case of working on things to improve.”
 

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