Drop Balotelli and play Sterling as a striker, Carragher urges Liverpool

October 21st, 2014

The Reds legend believes that the Italian would not be able to offer the aggressive pressing that Brendan Rodgers’s side will need when taking on the Champions League holders

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli should be dropped and Raheem Sterling deployed in his position against Champions League holders Real Madrid, says club legend Jamie Carragher.

The former AC Milan striker has endured a tough start since his €20 million move late in the transfer window, missing a sitter against QPR on Sunday in a dismal display.

With a crucial European group game at Anfield on Wednesday, Carragher feels that Brendan Rodgers cannot afford to take the risk of the Italian producing another such performance.

“[Balotelli] doesn’t run around enough,” he said as a pundit on Sky Sports. “Against Real Madrid you’ve got to get that crowd going. You need to get back to Liverpool of last year and that pressing.

“There’s got to be an energy about Liverpool that we haven’t seen; we’ve seen it once this season at Spurs. It’s going on too long now and we can’t keep waiting. It’s a huge game and Liverpool have to get something from it.

“I would put Sterling in there because he can run in behind and Liverpool may have to counterattack a lot of the game. Madrid may have a lot of the ball. Sterling can also press from the front. He doesn’t have to play right up front and he can come back and help the midfield.

“They can’t have any passengers against Real Madrid.

“The decision I would make would be to bring Coutinho in for Balotelli. I wouldn’t play Balotelli in this game. I would play Sterling, whether you’d call it a centre forward or a false nine.

“I think it’s important Liverpool have three players [in front of Steven Gerrard] who work and get after Real Madrid and then Sterling, if he’s off the front, can run in behind people. I’d have Coutinho in a wide area.

“I think they can [get something from the game] but it’s how Brendan Rodgers sets up. You’ve got to get Anfield bouncing. There’s got to be an energy and intensity about Liverpool and enthusiasm.”

The stats behind Balotelli's hopeless start at Liverpool

October 20th, 2014

The Italy striker is yet to score a Premier League goal for the Reds and fired over the bar when presented with an open net against QPR at Loftus Road on Sunday

Mario Balotelli’s profligate start to his Liverpool career continued on Sunday as the striker drew yet another blank against QPR at Loftus Road.

The €20 million summer signing from AC Milan wasted a number of superb chances before missing an open goal in the second half with the score at 1-0. Having seen Adam Lallana skip past a challegne on the edge of the box and test Alex McCarthy with a stinging low drive, the ball fell to Balotelli but he could only send the ball sailing over the crossbar with the Rs goalkeeper sprawled on the ground.

Fans and pundits alike subsequently mocked the striker and the miss served to typify what has been a nightmare opening to the season.

Here, Goal looks at the numbers behind Balotelli’s dismal first few months on Merseyside.


Rodgers defends woeful Balotelli: He's not here to replace Suarez

October 19th, 2014

The Italian striker again drew a blank for Liverpool in their 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers on Sunday but was later defended by his manager, despite missing an open goal

Brendan Rodgers defended Mario Balotelli after the Liverpool striker drew another blank against QPR on Sunday, insisting that the striker has not been signed to replace Luis Suarez.

The Uruguay international joined Barcelona in a €88 million summer deal and Balotelli was subsequently signed from AC Milan for €20m as Rodgers attempted to fill the attacking void left by last season’s Premier League top scorer.

However, Balotelli missed an open goal from six yards as the Reds beat Harry Redknapp’s side 3-2, having spurned a number of glorious chances beforehand.

Yet Rodgers insists that he is a “different” player to Suarez, and insists that Balotelli – who has been dropped from the Italy squad in favour of in-form Southampton striker Graziano Pelle – will eventually get among the goals at Anfield.

“It’ll drop for the boy,” he told reporters. “The most important thing to me is his work rate. He’s working really hard. It’ll drop for him.

“He’s seen as a direct replacement to Luis (Suarez), I’ve said before, Luis is irreplaceable, a real world class talent. That’s not what’s being asked of Mario. He’s a great boy, I’ve enjoyed working with him. He wants to be better. He’s a completely different player to Luis.”

‘He’s not a real man’ – Balotelli slams Prandelli

October 16th, 2014

The Liverpool striker has blasted the former Italy coach, who publicly criticised him after the Azzurri were eliminated from the World Cup in Brazil

Mario Balotelli has slammed Cesare Prandelli, accusing the former Italy coach of not being a “real man”.

The Liverpool star was publicly criticised by Prandelli following the Azzurri’s group stage exit at the World Cup, with the striker hauled off at half-time during the decisive 1-0 defeat to Uruguay.

“Real men, if they have something to say, then they come to you and say it to your face,” Balotelli told Sport.

“I am a face-to-face person, a straight person.

“Prandelli said bad stuff about me. Should he be going and talking to the newspapers about me straight after a game? I did not expect that and I did not reply, because there is no point.

“I have to be honest and say I was disappointed at what people were saying and how they were blaming me after the World Cup.

“I think I had two, maybe three chances all tournament. Everyone knows I scored against England, but I couldn’t do much else.”

Prandelli resigned after the World Cup debacle, taking the Galatasaray job which Roberto Mancini had vacated, but Balotelli has not been called up since by new coach Antonio Conte as he has struggled to rekindle his 2013 form.

“I understand why I am not in the squad,” he stated.

“I haven’t been scoring, but players like [Graziano] Pelle and the other strikers have been. So they deserve to be there, but I love Italy and nobody can ever say anything about my national team.”

Balotelli made his Italy debut back in 2010 and has scored 13 goals in 33 appearances.

Gerrard on Pirlo's level, insists Balotelli

October 16th, 2014

The striker is in awe of the Liverpool captain’s quality and believes his skill level is comparable with that of his legendary Italy team-mate

Steven Gerrard is every bit as good as Italy legend Andrea Pirlo, according to Liverpool new-boy Mario Balotelli.

Pirlo has enjoyed a prolific twilight to his illustrious career in recent years, winning three consecutive Serie A titles with Juventus, while Gerrard has re-moulded his game from the all-action displays of his youth to occupy a role similar to that of Pirlo at the base of the Liverpool midfield.

And Balotelli, who has had the privilege of playing alongside both men, admits he has been awed by Gerrard’s enduring quality and believes his skill level is comparable with the revered Juventus playmaker.

“Gerrard is an amazing player,” the 24-year-old told Sport. “I had really not seen much of him before this season, apart from for England, but wow. I think of him as being at the same level as Pirlo.

“Vision, technique, but he is powerful as well. Stevie can do anything. It’s going to be very difficult for the team to find another player like him in the future.”

Balotelli has so far struggled to fill the void left by the departed Luis Suarez since arriving at Anfield from AC Milan in a €20 million deal last summer.

He has scored just once in his first eight appearances and admits he is trying to adapt his game in new surroundings.

“I need to get in the box more,” he added. ”I don’t do it enough, but it is something I am working to try to do more. I have never been a real, out-and-out striker – I have always been someone who goes around the pitch, you know?

“If it was my choice, I would always go with two strikers. It’s the way I like to play, but Brendan asked me to play as the first striker.

“I understand that when the ball comes from wide on the left or right, I need to be in the box otherwise there might be no-one there at all.”

Balotelli’s poor performances in 2014 have led to new Italy coach Antonio Conte omitting the forward from his two squad announcements.

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