“This is not the Mario Balotelli show”, warned Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who is able to call on the mercurial Italian forward for the first time against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Balotelli was signed from AC Milan for 16 million pounds ($26.53 million) and, having impressed in training, is in line to feature at White Hart Lane as Liverpool look to rebound from Monday’s stinging 3-1 defeat by champions Manchester City.
With pundits fiercely debating whether the striker will prove to be the signing of the season or a costly and disruptive mistake, Rodgers’s first impressions have been positive.
“He is fine,” Rodgers told a news conference. “He has settled down very well and has looked fantastic in training. He is a good lad.
“He has done very well. He is top drawer, a real class act. His concentration is on his football, he is moving to Merseyside. But this is not the Mario Balotelli show. He has got a lot of work to do.”
Although all eyes will be fixed on the Italy striker, there could also be a debut for Adam Lallana, whose 25 million-pound move from Southampton, proved to be one of the close-season’s most protracted transfer wrangles.
The 26-year-old midfielder featured for England at the World Cup in Brazil and suffered a knee injury in training on the club’s tour of the United States having not played a match.
“Adam will be in the squad, for sure,” Rodgers said. “He has looked fantastic in training.
“Of course he is well short of match fitness but in training for the last couple of weeks he has been exceptional.”
Having welcomed nine players into the squad since last season’s second-place finish, Rodgers hinted that the focus was now going to be on moving on those who are surplus to requirements.
With an offer on the table for forward Fabio Borini from Sunderland, where he spent last season on loan, and doubts over several others, Rodgers gave a coded warning that the future was bleak for the unwanted players who chose to stay.
“We’ve still got offers for players to go. Every player here knows their situation, so if they’re here after that deadline on Monday then they’ve decided to stay but their game time will be very limited.
“At this moment in time, there are not many more to come in, if any.”
Liverpool face Tottenham, who are top of the fledgling Premier League table with six points, looking to build on their opening victory over Southampton and fix the problems exposed by City’s ruthless forward line.
Defensive errors cost Liverpool dear against the champions, while late injuries could impact on their squad against Spurs.
New left back Alberto Moreno twisted his ankle and is racing against time to be fit and right back Glen Johnson suffered a thigh problem and is struggling to recover.
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