Why Liverpool fans should hope for a goal fest in Malta

Cole and Balotelli England Italy

Italy's strikers didn't impress against Azerbaijan and Mario Balotelli could return to the national fold if they misfire against Malta.

Italy beat Azerbaijan 2-1 but it was defender Giorgio Chiellini who scored both their goals, plus an own goal, suggesting Mario Balotelli may be needed after all.

Balotelli had been left out by coach Antonio Conte after his poor start to the season, but Sassuolo's Simone Zaza missed a sitter and Ciro Immobile didn't impress much against Azerbaijan.

The statistics show that Italy had 22 shots compared to Azerbaijan's two, but only four were on target. 

There are already rumblings in Italy that Conte may give Balotelli a chance in his next squad unless things come together against Malta this evening. Graziano Pellè is expected to start against Malta.

While Super Mario's return to the Italy squad would be good news for him, it may not be such good news for Liverpool.

For the first time in memory, Balotelli is not being fast tracked into the Italy squad and is being made to fight for a place.

Under Cesare Prandelli, Balotelli had it pretty easy, just as he did at AC Milan. Regardless of the marksman's attitude, he was the first name on the team sheet and that was surely one of the reasons he often looked so lethargic on the field.

The pressure is currently on Balotelli to prove himself at Liverpool and that may finally give him the shove he needs to knuckle down, but if he is more or less brought back into Italy's squad by default he may well fall back into his demotivated ways.

Last season Balotelli often looked at his least bothered when returning from international duty. In November, coming back from games against Nigeria and Germany, Mario barely broke sweat against Genoa and then missed a late penalty in a 1-1 draw. He was booed by the Milan fans for much of the game.

While Balotelli scored a 97th minute penalty against Torino after scoring the winner against the Czech Republic last September, he again spent much of the game looking off the pace. 

The double effect of conserving Balotelli's energies for Liverpool engagements and forcing him to prove he is Italy's go-to striker can only benefit his club, so Liverpool fans should hope for a hatful of goals in Malta.

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