29 August 2014 21:28
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers does not want Mario Balotelli’s potential debut to divert focus ahead of Sunday’s trip to Tottenham.
The Italy international is in line for his Liverpool bow at White Hart Lane, having arrived from Milan on Monday amid plenty of excitement on Merseyside.
Formerly of Manchester City, Balotelli returns to the Premier League after acknowledging his exit from the English top flight was a “mistake”.
The 24-year-old scored 26 goals in 43 league appearances for Milan and Rodgers will be keen for the striker to boost a Liverpool side yet to hit top gear this season.
A narrow 2-1 win over Southampton was followed by a 3-1 defeat to champions Manchester City.
Balotelli scored the winning goal for City the last time he faced Spurs, and Rodgers has been pleased with his latest recruit’s attitude in training this week.
“Mario is fine, he has settled in very well. He has looked fantastic in training and he is a good lad. The focus is very much on his football and he has done very well,” said Rodgers on Friday.
“This is not the Mario Balotelli show. He’s a good player and a talented player but he has a lot of work to do here.
“We’ve got a number of top-class players. The star of this team will always be the team.”
Spurs have demonstrated fine form at the start of Mauricio Pochettino’s maiden campaign in charge – winning each of their Premier League games against West Ham and QPR to reach the summit of the table, while also moving into the UEFA Europa League group stages.
Pochettino is not reading too much into the fact that Liverpool put nine goals past Spurs last season.
A 5-0 defeat to Rodgers’ men at White Hart Lane signalled the end of Andre Villas-Boas’ reign and Tottenham were also well beaten with Tim Sherwood in charge at Anfield.
“It is a new season, I think a different style, different philosophy,” said Pochettino.
“Liverpool invested a lot of money this summer and we went another way.
“We believe in our squad and add some players for the balance. Two different ways [of approaching things].”
Kyle Walker (pelvis) and Roberto Soldado (neck) are the only injury worries for Tottenham, who have the option of including new defensive recruit Federico Fazio.
Rodgers could hand a competitive debut to Adam Lallana – one of the star performers in Pochettino’s Southampton team last season.
Lallana suffered a knee injury in July but will feature in Rodgers’ squad on Sunday, although there remain doubts over Alberto Moreno (ankle), Glen Johnson (thigh) and Jose Enrique (knee).