The Italy international has come in for heavy criticism in recent weeks, having netted just once since completing his move from AC Milan, but the Tigers boss is remaining vigilant
Steve Bruce has warned his injury-hit Hull City squad to beware of under-fire Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli at Anfield on Saturday.
Balotelli, who joined Liverpool from Milan in August for €20 million, has come in for criticism for his below-par performances for Brendan Rodgers’ men and has netted just once in 10 games in all competitions since completing his move.
The Italy international striker’s decision to swap shirts with Real Madrid defender Pepe at half-time during Wednesday’s Champions League tie has attracted further unwanted attention, with reports suggesting that Balotelli could be sold in January.
However, Bruce knows that his defence will need to be at their best in order to prevent Balotelli from answering his critics in style this weekend.
“It was a bit unfair on the lad [Balotelli],” Bruce said.
“There’s always one who people pick on. I thought he did okay in the [Real] game. A lot’s been made of changing shirts but it’s nothing new.
“The fella is a good player. If you play for Liverpool, you’re a good player. We’ll have to be wary of him.
“He’s the whipping boy at the moment – there’s always a scapegoat and he seems to be the one at the moment.”
Hull’s task of achieving a first away win over Liverpool has been made more difficult by injuries to midfielder Tom Huddlestone and defender Andy Robertson, both of whom could miss the Anfield clash along with Nikica Jelavic, Michael Dawson and Steve Harper, who are all unavailable.
“Tom Huddlestone and Andy Robertson are a concern,” Bruce added.
“It’s typical. We’ve been riding along nicely and all of a sudden we’ve got four or five [injuries].
“It’s inevitable. We simply have to cope with it and hope the squad’s big enough and strong enough.”