Brendan Rodgers has backed misfiring Mario Balotelli to shine against Real Madrid tonight, but the form and statistics point to a different outcome.
The enigmatic Italian has scored only once in his first nine Liverpool games – a strike against Ludogorets in the Champions League – and missed an open goal against QPR last weekend.
Balotelli is finding life hard at Anfield, and here’s why we think he’s in for another shocker tonight against Real Madrid…
1. No understanding with his teammates
Balotelli looks lost in a Liverpool shirt. He is naturally going to be compared with Luis Suarez, but there is no comparison. Balotelli has made his name as a target man and doesn’t fit Liverpool’s slick system and, the likes of Coutinho and Sterling are far more likely to harm Real Madrid than Balotelli.
2. Pepe will wind him up
Pepe has been waiting for tonight for a long time. The 15-stone Portuguese bruiser has been pacing up and down the corridors of Madrid’s Cuidad training complex slapping himself in the face for weeks in anticipation of being able to spend 90 minutes winding up Balotelli. The Madrid Wildebeest, dribbling and eyes popping out, stares coldly in the mirror and screams: “Mario, I’m coming for you”. Pepe is breathing fire and Mario is about to get burned. Pepe is 14.00 to get sent off.
3. No passion for the shirt
Professionals don’t like to be labelled as “lacking passion” or “not playing for the shirt” but you have to question Balotelli’s desire to play for Liverpool right now. Was his move to Anfield a big mistake? Is Balotelli weighed down by the expectations created by Luis Suarez? There are many questions and not so many clear answers, but if Balotelli’s body language and application is anything to go by, he doesn’t want to be in Liverpool.
4. Doesn’t create chances or score enough goals
We all know that Balotelli has struggled in front of goal at Liverpool, but lets take a look at the chances he’s created. According to the good people at Opta, Balotelli has created just five goal scoring opportunities in six Premier League games this season. Those kind of figures pale in comparison with the likes of Alexis Sanchez (16) and Diego Costa (11) and also put Balotelli in the shadow of the likes of Newcastle’s Yoan Gouffran and Southampton’s Shane Long. Statistics can be moulded to prove anything, but there’s no denying Balotelli’s ineffectiveness in attacking positions for Liverpool. Balotelli is 1.27 not to score.
5. Red card waiting to happen
“Why Always Me?” he once enquired. Well, Mario averages a red card every 25.5 games and, given that he hasn’t seen red since October 2013, he’s certainly due one. Balotelli is 21.00 to be sent off.
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