Balotelli told to shape up

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has told striker Mario Balotelli he will not get picked for the squad unless he improves in training.

The £16million summer signing did not make the matchday 18 for the goalless FA Cup fourth round draw at home to Bolton despite being fit after illness.

Rodgers said he spent an hour on Friday telling the Italy international exactly what he had to do in order to be considered.

“I am judging it every day in training – Mario is exactly the same as every other player, there is no special treatment for anyone,” said the Reds boss.

“Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert are working tirelessly in training and when they go on they have contributed and young Jordan Rossiter, on the bench today, has been brilliant in training and I have to judge it on that.

“If you want to contribute you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad on match day.

“We had an hour or so yesterday chatting and he understands where he is at.

“He knows exactly what is required to be in this squad before he can be in the team.

“It is difficult for him but he knows the level of what this team is at – you see the aggression in our pressing and if you can’t do that you are not going to be a part of what this team is trying to achieve.

“He was fully understanding. He saw the level of performance against Chelsea (in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup) and in fairness to him he actually said it would be a struggle for him in terms of how he would play the game because he is a box player really.

“But there is much more asked of this team and he saw it clearly on the field the other night. I am confident he will respond well.”

Another striker, Daniel Sturridge, returns to training tomorrow having not featured for the Reds since August 31 because of a thigh injury and could make the squad for the second leg against Chelsea on Tuesday.

“Now it is just about getting that condition with football fitness and game fitness,” said Rodgers.

“We will see how he is for Tuesday but if he is not ready for Tuesday he will be back for sure against West Ham next weekend.”

Liverpool lacked a cutting edge against their SkyBet Championship visitors, although goalkeeper Adam Bogdan did his part to earn a replay with some good saves.

However, Rodgers felt Matt Mills should have been dismissed for pulling down Lazar Markovic early in the second half.

“We did everything but put the ball in the net,” he added.

“Creative-wise we were excellent and were defensively solid against a form team in the Championship.

“The one (decision) which would have changed the game was Matt Mills should have been sent off – either a second yellow or a straight red – for bringing down Markovic.

“If you are playing 35 minutes against 10 men you’d hope that advantage would count.”

Bolton boss Neil Lennon was delighted with the chance to take Liverpool back to the Macron Stadium.

“On the outside people would say Liverpool didn’t play well but they played very well,” he said.

“We were resolute, disciplined and we created a couple of our own chances as well.

“To come away from here with a draw having watched Liverpool on Tuesday night playing exceptional football is more than I could have asked for.

“You want to be part of it, you want to be in the headlines as Bolton, for the last couple of years, has not been great and you could see what it meant to the supporters today.

“I’ve experienced myself at Celtic playing Barcelona and you need your defence and goalkeeper to play well.

“It was a privilege to be here; you don’t know whether you will manage here (Anfield) again or be here in another capacity but it was a great occasion.”

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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