The real concerns Liverpool should have about Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli Italy

Brendan Rodgers wanted his side to press the ball more, and took the Italian off as a result.

The headlines surrounding Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli are that he has swapped shirts with Real Madrid defender Pepe at half-time during the Reds' 3-0 defeat to the European Champions at Anfield last night.

The Italian was substituted with the Reds needing a mountain to climb after Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema struck for the star-studded visitors despite Liverpool's promising opening 20 minutes in the game.

But the reason Balotelli was substituted at half-time was not down to swapping shirts or for an injury, but purely for tactical reasons, with manager Brendan Rodgers, saying: “It was purely tactical. I felt we needed more movement centrally to occupy the centre halves more, and Raheem’s speed would give us that.

“In the second half, you could see every single player pressing and wanting to get something from the game. At Liverpool, you need to press and work. Raheem worked tirelessly all the way through, which is credit to him.”

The fact is Liverpool were prepared to play the second half without a recognised striker against the European champions when they were 3-0 down because they thought they would be more of a threat.

There was one notable moment when Balotelli got involved in the game, where his cross for Joe Allen's shot that was dragged just wide provided some sort of opening, but the Italian appeared isolated and lost in a game for the Reds once again.

Raheem Sterling went up to the top of the field and played through the middle more whilst Adam Lallana was brought into the action, as Rodgers wanted to press the ball more.

If the likes of Real Madrid can't get the desired work rate out of Balotelli then that is a big problem. Does his performance level dip with a lack of confidence? Maybe so. Do Liverpool need to be more patient with him as he adapts to playing as the lone striker? That could also be another factor.

There is the possibility that Rodgers thought the game was gone at 3-0, or it was the perfect time to experiment and maybe try something new to get the Reds back into the game with the introduction of Adam Lallana to combine with Sterling and Philippe Coutinho.

Clearly there is work to do with Balotelli, as the £16 million man is fast becoming a flop.

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