Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has a demanding task to resemble last season’s success: a second-place finish and LMA Manager of the Year award.
As some predicted, the Reds, without forward Luis Suarez manning the front, may be no better than a mid-table team, and Rodgers is out to prove his doubters wrong.
Delicately located in seventh place, Liverpool could muscle their way into the top five by May, even though beating out Chelsea and/or Manchester City seems doubtful.
The Anfield faithful could witness a Champions League qualification, but in order for this to unfold, Liverpool would require superb displays from their attackers–namely Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling–up front. Substantial contribution from striker Mario Balotelli might be necessary as well.
[RELATED: Barton defends Balo’s PK ]
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old’s apathetic play and weak production has generated uncertainty amid fans and media. Even Rodgers is bordering skepticism regarding the Italian’s shape.
“We need to ensure that whatever level of the game we are playing at we have everyone working as a team and once we got the penalty he stops working,” Rodgers said. “So he needs to improve on that facet of his game to play in his position, rather than standing on the side of the football field.”
“He has contributed against Besiktas, he has got the penalty and scored the goal but that is what he is paid to do. He needs to keep that efficiency in his game and show that he can affect the team whether he is asked to play from the bench or from the start.”
Liverpool will encounter Southampton on Sunday in a telling league match. Balotelli must buckle down and rise to the occasion, whether or not he makes a late appearance. If he cannot find any semblance of his once-great form by the season’s conclusion, his value will depreciate, and we could see him donning the jersey for a lower-to-mid caliber European side.