Michael Owen backs Raheem Sterling to step up for Liverpool in Daniel Sturridge’s absence

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen backs Raheem Sterling to eclipse Mario Balotelli against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.

Saturday’s Premier League clash against Aston Villa will be a massive occasion for Mario Balotelli, as he will be making his home debut for Liverpool.

The Italy international striker joined the Reds from AC Milan for a reported transfer fee of £16 million last month.

The former Manchester City star has already made his debut for Liverpool, starting against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane before the international break, but on Saturday, the 24-year-old will get a proper feel of what it is like to be a Liverpool player playing in front of the Kop.

With England international striker Daniel Sturridge out injured, Balotelli will be leading the line for the Merseyside outfit – but it is another Liverpool player who will rise to the occasion, claims Michael Owen.

‘Villa are unbeaten in their last three at Anfield but, in the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge, I expect to see Raheem Sterling step up to the plate’, the former Liverpool striker wrote on Betvictor.com.

‘All eyes will be on the Anfield debut of Mario Balotelli but it is Sterling who excites me and whilst it is premature to call him world class just yet he certainly has the talent to be described as that going forward’.

Sterling will indeed have to play a starring role against a Villa side who will head to Anfield with confidence. The 19-year-old winger was a revelation last season and was a key player in Liverpool’s second-place finish in the Premier League.

The teenager has maintained that good run of form, as his tricks, pace and ability to link up with his teammates have been brilliant to watch.

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch