Balotelli's doing his best, says Rodgers

April 29th, 2015

The striker, who has just one goal in 16 Premier League outings, again failed to impress as Hull City all but ended Liverpool’s Champions League hopes on Tuesday

Brendan Rodgers has again backed underperforming Mario Balotelli to come good at Liverpool despite acknowledging his ongoing struggles.

The Italian, who has just one league goal to his name, was handed his 10th start of the season as Hull City ran out 1-0 winners on Tuesday to all but end Liverpool’s fading hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Balotelli touched the ball just 22 times – and only once in the 20 second-half minutes before he was replaced by Rickie Lambert – and Rodgers has underlined the need for improved displays from the entire squad.

“Mario’s doing his best,” Rodgers told reporters. “He’s obviously come off [in the second half] with a foot injury. I think it’s clear over the course of the season, not just this game, that [attack] is an area we’ve struggled in.

“He’s still got a few years left on his contract. Every single player, every single day you come in at Liverpool, you’re working for your future.”

'Balotelli needs bread and water, not a Ferrari' – Sampdoria president Ferrero

April 14th, 2015

The 24-year-old has endured a nightmare season at Anfield and his countryman believes he should follow the example of Antonio Cassano by moving to Stadio Luigi Ferraris

Liverpool misfit Mario Balotelli should choose a more modest lifestyle at Sampdoria if he wants to revive his career, according to the club’s outspoken president Massimo Ferrero.

Balotelli has endured a nightmare season at Anfield, scoring just four goals in 25 appearances since arriving in a £16 million deal from Milan last summer and frequently attracting criticism for his attitude.

Ferrero believes the 24-year-old has lost his desire for football and needs to come to Stadio Luigi Ferraris in order to re-discover his best form – in much the same manner as fellow Italian bad boy Antonio Cassano did upon leaving Real Madrid in acrimonious circumstances in the summer of 2007.

“I’d sign him,” Ferrero insisted when asked about Balotelli on Gazzetta TV.

“If he came to Sampdoria, he would come back to his usual standards. Here nobody would bother him if he missed a goal, he would be quiet and happy.

“In my opinion he’s not hungry anymore, he earns 4 million euros a year. We should put him on bread and water, give him a Bianchina [a very small, working class car from the 1960s] rather than a Ferrari… then I’m sure he would score again.”

Balotelli posts temperature pic after Savage illness jibe

April 9th, 2015

The Italy international was branded “pathetic” for complaining of feeling unwell before the trip to Ewood Park but used his Instagram to show he was under the weather

Mario Balotelli has hit back at Robbie Savage after the former midfielder crtiticised the Liverpool striker for pulling out of their FA Cup clash with Blackburn Rovers with illness.

Brendan Rodgers confirmed the Italy international had travelled with the squad to Ewood Park on Tuesday, only to return home the following morning after complaining of feeling unwell.

This followed Balotelli pulling himself out of Saturday’s clash with Arsenal through injury, and Savage felt the former Manchester City man had acted disgracefully in not trying to help his side to a semi-final at Wembley.

“Pathetic, isn’t it? You’re going to miss an FA Cup quarter-final?” he told BT Sport.

“I don’t know how unwell he is, but to miss an FA Cup quarter-final when you’re feeling a bit ill? Nonsense. I would have to be really, really ill to miss that game.”

Balotelli reacted by posting a picture on his Instagram account showing him with a thermometer to his mouth which showed him to have a temperature of 38.7C – 1.7 degrees above normal body temperature.

The image was accompanied with the caption: “Nothing stop me to watch my team winning. At least this time you know the real reason I am out. Miss the pitch so much #unluckyseason #YNWA #illbeback [sic].”

Suarez and Torres back at Anfield for Gerrard-Carragher charity clash

March 29th, 2015

The LA Galaxy-bound man scored from the penalty spot to help his side come back from two goals down in an entertaining exhibition match featuring many ex-Liverpool legends

By Tom Maston at Anfield

As Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso returned to Anfield to take part in Liverpool’s All-Star charity match, it was left to the man the event was organised around – Steven Gerrard – to provide the firepower.

Organised to raise funds for the Liverpool FC foundation, a host of past and present Reds stars, as well as a number of familiar Premier League faces, played out an entertaining draw that, for all its star names, lacked quality at times.

Jamie Carragher’s XI took the lead inside the opening ten minutes with Mario Balotelli curling in from 25 yards to leave Brad Jones helpless. The Italy international has struggled to endear himself to the Anfield faithful since his arrival from Milan in the summer, but proved the value he can offer when given a strike partner with whom he can work alongside.

Too many times, particularly in the first half of the season, the former Manchester City man was forced to plough a lone furrow up front for Brendan Rodgers’ side, but with Didier Drogba alongside him he was the outstanding player in a first half that’s pace was ideally suited to his languid style of play.

Along with Drogba he repeatedly stretched the opposition defence, and the pair combined to devastating effect to double their side’s lead as Balotelli’s fine through-ball allowed the Chelsea forward to break the offside trap, round Jones and finish into an empty net.

FAMILIAR FACES | Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres, now battling it out in La Liga with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively, returned to Anfield for the match
Gerrard’s team were otherwise enjoying the majority of the territory, with Thierry Henry a willing runner ahead of serial diagonal-pass merchants Gerrard and Alonso, though the former Arsenal striker’s touch did elude him on occasion.

The forward-turned-pundit did provide one of the afternoon’s highlights however, as an outrageous piece of skill led to an opportunity for Ryan Babel on the edge of the box, only for the Dutch winger to fire his shot wide of the post.

Instead it was left to Gerrard to bring his team back into the match as he converted from the penalty spot after Martin Kelly felled the impressive Jerome Sinclair in the penalty area.

Gerrard’s brother, Anthony, came close to equalising shortly before the break with a rasping 20-yard drive his more illustrious sibling would have been proud of, though Pepe Reina was able to force it over the bar.

Moments later the Bayern Munich goalkeeper made an emotional farewell to the Anfield faithful, with many feeling he was not given the opportunity to properly say goodbye when Rodgers somewhat controversially chose to replace him with Simon Mignolet in the summer of 2013. The ovation afforded to Reina as he was substituted around the hour mark was proof enough that his role in the club’s recent history is not forgotten.

Suarez and Torres were introduced to rapturous applause at half-time, and though the overall quality fell away in the second 45 minutes, the duo were able to bring the crowd of 44,903 to life with the odd piece of superb attacking play.

Indeed it was Suarez who won Gerrard his second penalty of the game as the Uruguayan went to ground following the slightest of touches from Carragher. In his previous life as a Premier League player he may well have been chastised for going down so easily, but here it was laughed off by all concerned as Gerrard sent Peter Gulacsi the wrong way from 12 yards.

Both sides pushed for a winner in the closing stages, but neither could find the all-important third goal on what was a special day for any modern-day Liverpool supporter.

Balotelli is going through a bad patch – Bonucci

March 27th, 2015

The Juventus centre-back has implored his compatriot to change his ways and put in more effort if he wants to be back in the Italy squad

Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci has warned that Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli must raise his game if he wants to play under Antonio Conte.

Balotelli is yet to feature under Conte, with his last appearance for the national team coming in their World Cup exit to Uruguay in June 2014, although he did make November’s squad before pulling out due to injury.

The striker’s form for Liverpool has done little to suggest he will be back any time soon, but the Juventus centre-back can see the benefit of a fully-fit and a hungry Balotelli in the squad.

“Mario is not in a good period of his career,” Bonucci told reporters. “However, he was an asset in Euro 2012.

“He is welcome in this team, but he has to be part of our group. This team is devoted to hard work.”

Contrastingly, Bonucci was full of praise for Conte – whom he was coached by at Juve – for instilling a rock-solid defensive philosophy to Italy’s play since replacing Cesare Prandelli after their World Cup 2014 group-stage exit.

“Our defensive line is so strong thanks to our coaches,” he added.

“Conte has introduced us to playing with a new defensive style. When we are organised on the pitch, it is easier to play in defence. In addition, we know each other very well. We have played a lot together.”

Italy are in action on Saturday when they travel to Bulgaria for their fifth Euro 2016 qualifier. Conte’s men are currently second behind Croatia on goal difference in Group H, with two teams automatically reaching the finals in France.

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