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Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers Pays Tribute To Mario Balotelli’s Work Rate

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BRENDAN Rodgers believes Mario Balotelli needs time to adapt at Anfield but showed on the club’s Champions League return he is willing to meet the demands required of a Liverpool striker.

Balotelli opened his Liverpool account on Tuesday with an impressive goal in the 2-1 defeat of Ludogorets Razgrad and, despite the occasional loose touch and misplaced pass, produced the kind of hard-working display not commonly associated with the 24-year-old during his time with Internazionale, Manchester City or Milan. It was only the Italy international’s third appearance for Liverpool since his £16m arrival from Milan and Rodgers conceded his team’s fluency has been affected by the injury to Daniel Sturridge and the integration of several new signings.

The Liverpool manager was encouraged by Balotelli’s work rate against the Bulgarian champions and is confident the striker can adapt to the relentless style Rodgers has developed at Anfield. “As a coach you will always have players who are high maintenance and players who are low maintenance for different reasons,” he said. “He’s a good boy and I think you can see that he’s prepared to work.

“You saw his work rate against Ludogorets and, OK, the ball has bounced off him a couple of times and we’re trying to improve him in the transitions so that when he makes a mistake he can go after it, but I think you can see what he’s trying to put in for the team. That’s going to be very important. The crowd demand that because the players who’ve been here in the past in that position have been non-stop and he’s becoming attuned to that. He’s aware of the demands and it’s going to take time but if he continues to score goals and work hard like he has done then he will be fine, because he’s obviously got the quality.”

Rodgers had publicly instructed Balotelli to “score goals, create goals and work hard” before the difficult encounter with Ludogorets, who were seconds from a merited draw at Anfield when the stand-in goalkeeper Milan Borjan conceded a needless penalty. The manager admits impressing on Balotelli the effort he requires from his strikers but claimed the Italian is aware of the expectation, having studied Luis Suárez among other Liverpool forwards.

Rodgers said: “He’s really looked into the history of the club. He understands the great strikers of the past. We’ve spoken about Suárez and his time here but if you’re clever you’ll remember he’s still young and still learning the game and he still has this hunger to do well.

“You saw his work on Tuesday; he’s put his body on the line and he needs to do more of that but I think that will come as he gets fitter. But he’s well in tune with the history of Liverpool.”

Tuesday also brought Balotelli’s first 90-minute appearance for Liverpool, following a 61-minute debut at Tottenham Hotspur and 71 minutes against Aston Villa on Saturday, and Rodgers detects the striker’s sharpness is growing by the game. “I’d always planned to keep him on,” he said. “I took him off in the previous two games and I think it was about building up his games. He’s been working well. He was ill in the buildup to the Villa game but we needed him so he was up to 70 minutes in that game. He’ll get fitter with games and the idea is just to persist with him.

“He’s a good reference for us and he’s improving with each time he trains and plays. It was a brilliant finish, great technique and that was exactly what we needed at that time – a bit of genuine Champions League class and he showed that.” – The Guardian

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