Under fire Liverpool striker receives backing from an unlikely source

Mario Balotelli Italy

Mario Balotelli has been backed to come good by Italian striker rival Simone Zaza.

Mario Balotelli has certainly not had a good start to his career back in England. His form with Liverpool has been poor while he has also struggled been dropped from the Italian national team in recent weeks.

The likes of Ciro Immobile, Graziano Pelle and Simone Zaza have been preferred by the new Azzurri boss Antonio Conte - with Balotelli seemingly cast into the wilderness for now.

Last night would not have helped. On the biggest stage he struggled against Real Madrid and then embarrassed himself by swapping shirts at half-time with Portuguese defender Pepe.

But despite his poor form he has an odd backer, one of the men trying to permanently steal his place in the Italian squad.

Sassuolo striker Zaza is certainly a preferred option to the Liverpool man and he does not believe that Balotelli's time with the national team is at an end, insisting he hopes to play with him one day:

“The national team without Balotelli? In the Italian side there is space for strong players and Mario is one of those. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him but I hope to cross him soon. My goal at the moment is remain in the national team and keep playing.”

At the moment there is little chance of Balotelli making it into the team for the November international break - with Conte already not a fan he needs to be doing a lot better at club level to grab his attention.

However the form of Pelle and former Southampton star Dani Osvaldo also means that Zaza is fighting hard for a place in the Italian squad.

Time will tell if Zaza gets his wish, one way or another.

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch