Champions League: LFC banking on Balotelli
Liverpool will host Real Madrid at Anfield in tonight's Uefa Champions League Group B match.
LONDON - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes it is just a matter of time until Mario Balotelli rediscovers his scoring touch and has backed the misfiring Italian to find the target in Wednesday's Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
After completing a £16 million move from AC Milan in August, Balotelli has found the net just once in nine games in all competitions.
As well as his struggles in front of goal, his on-pitch demeanour and a perceived lack of industry has also drawn criticism, with pundits including former defensive stalwart Jamie Carragher lining up to question the forward.
There was little in Balotelli's performance at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday that hinted at an upturn in fortunes, with good chances to open his Premier League account going begging, including one miss in front of an open goal that drew laughter from the home fans.
There has also been little industry or a willingness to chase lost causes and press opponents, a trait that characterised Liverpool's attacking play last season, typified by the non-stop running of Luis Suarez, who has since joined Barcelona.
With hunched shoulders and head bowed, the Italian looked a player with no confidence, yet his manager has warned Wednesday's opponents that he often reserves his best for the big games.
"He's been fine. Of course, he was disappointed after the weekend," Rodgers told reporters.
"He's a goalscorer and wants to score goals, but the point I highlighted to him was that he was in the positions to miss.
"He was arriving in the areas and I think it's only a matter of time before he gets his goals.
"He's a good kid who is working hard. He's focussed and getting himself out on the training field, which is important, and he's scored goals in big games.
"I'm sure he'll go into the game tomorrow night, if selected, looking forward to getting off the mark again, and as long as he's in there with the possibilities to score, I have every confidence he can score."
An equally pressing concern for Rodgers is the frequency with which his team have conceded soft goals this season.
Sunday's 3-2 win over QPR was a prime example of how easily teams seem to be able to craft scoring chances against Rodgers's side, who were lucky to come away with three points from a game in which they could have been 3-0 down at halftime.
Against Madrid they will come up against a different calibre of attack, spearheaded by "special talent" Cristiano Ronaldo.
"He's arguably the best player in the world at the moment," Rodgers said.
"We have to make a plan for our team first to ensure we cause Real Madrid problems. Then, of course, you have to prepare for the quality players they have, but that will be as a team and that is something we'll focus on going into the game."
Liverpool have three points in Group B, three behind leaders Real.