Liverpool latest: £16m target plays down speculation, Barcelona star linked

Pedro Rodriguez Spain

All the latest news, views and transfer rumours from Anfield...

Liverpool were sent crashing back down to earth after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday, with Gabriel Agbonlahor snatching an early winner for Paul Lambert's side. It was a frustrating evening for the Reds, and after some defensive confusion in the first half, centre back Dejan Lovren has backed his side to bounce back.

"It's the start of the season, and we've had tough games," Lovren said. "Of course, we need to improve in every game, to be better defensively as a team. But I'm not worried about this. I'm really confident in our team. We are practically a new team with a lot of new players, but everything will settle down in the next few games."

"It was a little bit painful in the last home game against Aston Villa to lose 1-0. We didn't expect it. But it happens. That's football. So we need to continue now, to keep our heads up, concentrate on the Champions League and move on. We have a lot of games, so we need to forget this."

The game saw striker Mario Balotelli make his Anfield debut following his £16m move from AC Milan in August, but it wasn't the finest of debuts for the Italian. Villa made sure that they got stuck in to Balotelli in a bid to wind the volatile forward up, but he couldn't find the back of the net, leading to some people questioning his ability to replace Luis Suarez on Merseyside - but manager Brendan Rodgers is confident that he can fill the Uruguayan's boots.

"Time will tell. The boy is only just in the door," said the Reds boss. "The best players enjoy that responsibility and I am sure it is one he is relishing but on the training field he is going to work hard to accept that responsibility knowing he has been brought in here to do a job which is to create and score goals and work hard.

"He was unfortunate he was ill last week and it was only on the morning of the game [Saturday's defeat to Aston Villa] he declared himself fit to play, which shows he really wanted to get out and play here," added Rodgers. "He is also experienced as well. He is arguably one of the most experienced players we have in terms of this competition and international calibre and at club level."

On the transfer front, Liverpool reportedly had a £16m bid for Lazio forward Balde Keita turned down in August, and the Spaniard has revealed that he isn't interested in speculation over his future, whilst his compatriot Pedro could also be a target for the Reds after the emergence of youngster Munir El Haddadi threw Pedro's Barcelona future in doubt.

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