Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers does not want Mario Balotelli’s potential debut to divert focus ahead of Sunday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays Premier League.
The Italy forward is in line for his Liverpool bow at White Hart Lane, having arrived from AC Milan on Monday amid plenty of excitement on Merseyside. Formerly of Manchester City, Balotelli returns to the Barclays 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,” Rodgers said. “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.
“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.”
Adam Lallana is in contention to make his Liverpool debut after recovering from a knee injury. The England midfielder has not yet featured for the Merseyside club since his transfer from Southampton after sustaining knee ligament damage during the pre-season tour of the United States.
Liverpool gave a positive outlook on Lallana’s fitness on Friday, though, revealing that the 26-year-old will be in the squad to face a Spurs side who have made a bright start under Mauricio Pochettino, Lallana’s head coach at Southampton last season.
“Adam will be in the squad, for sure,” Rodgers said. “He has looked fantastic in training. Of course he is well short of match fitness but in training for the last couple of weeks he has been exceptional.”
The Liverpool manager stated that Glen Johnson (thigh) is unlikely to be ready for the trip to White Hart Lane and he will monitor the fitness of fellow full-back Alberto Moreno (ankle).
Rodgers also expects more activity in the transfer window ahead of Monday’s deadline, with players set to leave the club rather than arrive.
“There’ll probably be more movement out than coming in, I would say,” he added. “We’ve still got offers for players to go. Every player here knows their situation, so if they’re here after that deadline on Monday then they’ve decided to stay but their game time will be very limited. “At this moment in time, there are not many more to come in, if any.”
Jordon Ibe is one player to have left Anfield on Friday, sealing a season-long loan move to Derby County.
Spurs have demonstrated fine form at the start of Pochettino’s maiden campaign in charge, winning each of their Barclays Premier League matches against West Ham and Queens Park Rangers 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 by 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.
Spurs (from): Friedel, Lloris, Vorm, Assou-Ekotto, Chiriches, Davies, Dier, Fazio, Fryers, Kaboul, Naughton, Rose, Vertonghen, Walker, Bentaleb, Capoue, Chadli, Dembele, Eriksen, Lamela, Lennon, Holtby, Paulinho, Sandro, Townsend, Adebayor, Kane, Soldado.
Liverpool (from): Jones, Mignolet, Coates, Jose Enrique, Johnson, Lovren, Manquillo, Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel, Toure, Allen, Can, Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana, Lucas, Markovic, Suso, Coutinho, Balotelli, Lambert, Sterling, Sturridge
Referee: Phil Dowd Assistants: S Ledger, D Bryan Fourth Official: N Swarbrick