Rodgers on Balotelli, defending, and the role Rickie Lambert has to play

Brendan Rogers Press Conference Smiling - 16/02/2014

Brendan Rodgers addressed the media ahead of Liverpool's Premier League game against Hull City.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has said he's spoken to Mario Balotelli after he was spotted swapping shirts with Real Madrid defender Pepe at half-time during last night's 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The Reds' boss fielded several questions about the Italian striker, including asked if he was worried about him being made a scapegoat at the club, when he replied with: "Was Mario playing centre-half?"

Rodgers seemed to accept the fact that there will be a bit of criticism for his out of striker, who has only struck once for the club following his £16 million arrival from AC Milan, but seems to be happy with the effort and contribution the striker is making on the training field.

He said: "It'll happen when the team's not playing well - you have to accept that. The boy is trying very, very hard. Longer term we'll see how that works out for him. As long as he's doing his best that's all I can ask. Whether that best is good enough remains to be seen."

Following on from a night where Liverpool's defending cost them dearly again, Rodgers stressed their defence needs to improve as a team, and that they need to be more aggressive as they go in search of more clean sheets.

"We need to be more competitive and aggressive.

“A large number of goals we’ve conceded have been soft and that’s something we need to improve on, but as a team.”

The Liverpool boss seemed to be of the opinion that the side has almost become a victim of their unexpected success last term when they came so close to winning the Premier League title, and qualified for the Champions League in the process - hence the severity of disappointment surrounding last night's result.

At half-time last night he brought on Adam Lallana for Balotelli which meant that striker Rickie Lambert was left on the bench again, but Rodgers stressed the 32-year-old who signed from Southampton in the summer is pretty comfortable with the situation.

He added: “Rickie Lambert knew he wasn’t going to be a regular starter. He recognises the role he had to come in.

“He [Lambert] didn’t play last night because we needed something different last night – speed and mobility – so we put Raheem up front.”

“He has been training outstandingly well.”

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