Bayo Akinfenwa defends under-fire Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli Italy

Balotelli has yet to show signs of producing the kind of form that led to Liverpool spending £16 million on him.

Liverpool face AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the FA Cup at Kingsmeadow tonight and face up to one of the more prolific players from League Two in Bayo Akinfenwa.

Akinfenwa has admitted he is a fan of Liverpool, and one of their players in particular in Mario Balotelli

The Italian has not had the best of times since arriving at Anfield from AC Milan for £16 million in the summer, and has yet to find the net for the Reds in the Premier League - but has scored two goals for the club in other competitions.

People have cited that his attitude has not helped him during his time at the club, something which was often talked about during his time at other clubs, but Akinfenwa says the criticism Balotelli has received during his time on Merseyside so far has been unfair.

He said: “I’m a Balotelli fan. He gets a lot of criticism but Liverpool’s style does not suit him and because Liverpool are struggling he gets highlighted.

“I do think he’s an easy target. People think he’s lazy but he’s a laid-back footballer."

Balotelli has admitted himself that he prefers to play as part of a front two, but he has often be used as a lone striker and has struggled in front of goal. He last found the net for the Reds in a League Cup tie against Swansea City in October, and has been out of favour as Brendan Rodgers has looked to shake up the side's system in order to return to the kind of form the side demonstrated last season.

Raheem Sterling has been preferred in the strikers' role with Rodgers saying that Balotelli doesn't really suit their style of play. It will be interesting to see if Balotelli gets his opportunity this evening as Liverpool look to remain fighting on all four fronts and avoid the biggest upset of this season's competition thus far.

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