Rodgers plays down Balotelli concerns
30 October 2014, 23:10
London - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said on Thursday he had "no concern" about Mario Balotelli's on-field conduct following two incidents involving the striker during the League Cup win over Swansea City.
The Italy international was sent away from a warm-up exercise prior to Tuesday's match at Anfield, with assistant manager Colin Pascoe forced to deny reports it was because the 24-year-old had been misbehaving.
Having netted the equalising goal in a 2-1 win, Balotelli also became embroiled in an off-the-ball spat with former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, which continued as the players left the pitch at full-time.
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But when asked for his views on what had happened, Rodgers told a press conference: "I don't know, but there is no problem, so we move on."
When asked if he was worried about the combustible Balotelli being targeted by opposition players, Rodgers replied: "I don't have to protect Mario. He is fine. There is no concern."
With Daniel Sturridge still sidelined by a calf injury, Balotelli is expected to return to the starting XI when Liverpool visit Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday.
In Sturridge's absence and following Luis Suarez's departure to Barcelona, Liverpool have struggled for goals this season, finding the net only 13 times in their first nine league games.
Balotelli has scored only one league goal and Rickie Lambert is still waiting to open his Liverpool account after signing from Southampton, but Rodgers believes the goals will come in time.Lambert 'working tirelessly'
"It is up to myself to find the solution," he said. "The players who are available are working very hard, and we are still learning about each other. I think this is something that sometimes is missed.
"You get new players in and with not as much preparation time, you are learning about them in the games. But I can see each day relationships growing between the players and the connection in the team."
He added: "Gradually as each day goes by, I sense we are getting better. With Daniel out, of course it is a miss, but it is also an opportunity, as we saw the other night.
"Fabio Borini was excellent, a real threat, and put in a wonderful cross for the (Balotelli) goal. And Rickie Lambert, who hasn't had many opportunities, his goals will come.
"He is working tirelessly every day, he had some nice touches and his goals will come."
Sturridge suggested in a radio interview this week that his injury problems may be hereditary, but Rodgers was reluctant to discuss his striker's comments.
"I can only concentrate on his injury now and what my medical team here, who are fantastic, are telling me," Rodgers said.
"He is just in the middle of recovering and we will see the length of time it takes.
"I'm not an expert on genetics or medicine, so I can't comment. All we know is that he had a calf strain on the back of his last injury, and he is working to recover from that."