Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers: Mario Balotelli is one of the good guys

By Phil Medlicott

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has stressed he is enjoying working with Mario Balotelli.

The Reds recruited maverick Italy striker Balotelli from AC Milan last month and the former Manchester City player opened his scoring account for his new club in their 2-1 Champions League victory over Ludogorets last Tuesday.

Then on Sunday he was the victim of racial abuse on Twitter after he reacted to Manchester United's shock defeat to Leicester by tweeting: "Man Utd...LOL".

Merseyside Police have since confirmed they are looking into the matter, and Liverpool on Monday emphasised that, with that being the case, neither they nor Rodgers would be making any comment on it at his press conference to preview tonight's Capital One Cup third round home clash against Middlesbrough.

The manager did say about Balotelli: "Every player is different and individual and I have really enjoyed working with him so far.

"He is a good guy, he wants to do well for the club and he has shown me that he cares enough about the club for me to devote that time to him.

"For me, he is not complicated – he is a football player who wants to do well in his life and his career and if he continues to give everything and work tirelessly for the cause, then there will always be an opportunity here for him."

While Balotelli was among a host of players brought in by Liverpool over the summer, the club lost the services of their 2013-14 top scorer Luis Suarez.

And the Reds have made a disappointing start to this season, with Saturday's 3-1 loss at West Ham the third defeat from their opening five Premier League games.

Rodgers feels the "transition" going on within the camp is one of several things to have contributed to that, but he is confident things will turn if his players keep working hard.

"There is a natural transition in the group and where there is that transition, there are little bumps along the way," said Rodgers, whose side were not in Europe last term and finished second in the league.

"Mario is one of a number of players we brought in and for them all, no matter how good their quality, it is going to take time to gel with the players that were already here."

Rodgers insists he has no problem with a busier schedule as it comes with success and added: "We can be much better. We're still looking to find our performance level, but it's something I have no doubt about.

"When you've got new players coming in, it's never easy. Even though the profile of player is very much suited to how we work, there's still the expectation of playing for Liverpool.

"You add in the players that are out injured – those are the players that have been with us on the journey here for a couple of years."

And specifically on the clash with Championship outfit Middlesbrough, Rodgers said: "We need to concentrate on the game tomorrow night. It's important for us and we want to get through.

"We want to win a trophy this season – it's still a key objective."

Rickie Lambert is set to make his first competitive Liverpool start .

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