If Real Madrid doesn't bring out the best of Balotelli, what will?

Mario Balotelli Italy

He came in for a lot of criticism against Queens Park Rangers, but with the visit of Real Madrid on Wednesday, even if Mario Balotelli is low on confidence, Liverpool will expect to see something from their striker.

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been under fire for his lack of goals since joining the club, and the criticism grew louder following his poor showing for the Reds in the 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Italian has only struck on one occasion for the Reds since his £16 million arrival from AC Milan, in the 2-1 win over Ludogorets in the Reds' Champions League opener at Anfield in September, but has yet to open his account on the domestic front for the club.

Brendan Rodgers was visibly displeased with his summer signing after failing to move from a spot after being on the wrong end of an aerial challenge on Sunday, as some fans criticised his lack of effort and his decision making in the final third, such as taking a shot at goal when it seemed he had little or no chance of scoring - and failing to hit the target as a result.

On Sunday, he appeared to be more involved in the game than previously because there were more players to get closer to him, especially in the second half as the energy of Joe Allen along with craft and creativity of Philippe Coutinho were making life difficult for QPR's defence as they began to open them up on more occasions.

There were times yesterday when Balotelli looked disillusioned, as if he didn't want to be there. His staunchest defenders will probably suggest he had a role to play in the two own goals at Loftus Road - if Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker respectively hadn't have put the ball into their own net then the Italian will have stroked the ball home at the far post. His staunchest critics will have pointed to his shocking miss when a rebound from Adam Lallana's shot fell to him with the goal at his mercy, only for him to hit it into the upper tier of the stand behind the goal.

Wednesday's clash with the European Champions is undoubtedly the biggest game of the season for Liverpool, which was made all the more bigger following the Reds' defeat in Switzerland to Basel - another game where the Italian's performance came in for a lot of criticism.

But it's the biggest stage, against the most decorated and famous side in the world coming to Anfield - and there's likely to be a special atmosphere at Anfield to add to the occasion, any player at the highest level should want to play in these games. There isn't a better time for him to turn things around for himself and the side.

Rodgers is publicly backing him, saying 'it will drop' for him. But the Reds want to see results from their striker, work ethic and desire. There have been times this season when there have been signs of effort. Though he should've scored in the Merseyside derby against Everton, he put a shift in. 

He might be low on confidence, but Liverpool need to see something different from Balotelli against Real. They want to see him terrorise, close down and be in the right place at the right time. Wednesday night has to be that time.

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