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

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.”

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