(Reuters) – Mario Balotelli will return to Liverpool’s squad for the festive programme but manager Brendan Rodgers was hardly effusive in his praise of the Italy’s striker’s credentials on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old Balotelli has struggled to make an impact at Anfield since his 16 million pounds ($24.88 million) move from AC Milan in August, managing two goals in 15 games.
His off-field antics have also made the headlines and he was fined 25,000 pounds and banned for last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal after posting an offensive message on social media.
At his pre-match news conference Rodgers welcomed mercurial Balotelli’a return for a busy holiday programme, starting with a trip to lowly Burnley on Friday, but suggested the former Manchester City player is not suited to Liverpool’s style.
“We’ve seen that it is not really his game, Rodgers said, referring to the high-pressing approach that worked so well with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in tandem last season.
“Working with Mario, we’ve seen that he is someone who is better in and around the box. That level of pressing and intensity is not part of his game.
“But you try to make the best out of the players you have, and the qualities that they have. That’s something we will focus on.
“The most important thing is that he’s now available after his ban. It adds another player to our squad, which is important especially with Fabio (Borini) now suspended.”
Liverpool are 10th and though they got one point in their last two games — a defeat at Manchester United and a home draw with Arsenal — they are starting to recapture the verve of last season when they were pipped to the title by Manchester City.
Holiday fixtures against Burnley, Rodgers’ former club Swansea City and struggling Leicester City, offer Liverpool the chance to start making up lost ground.
“We’ve tried to find the solution to get back that intensity and that tempo, and I think we’ve seen that,” Rodgers said.
“It’s key for us, that aggressive pressure at the top end of the field. It gives us the platform to go on and dominate the ball.
“We have to try to maximise the players that we have to make sure our game is as close as possible to the level we want. The last three games has been a lot closer.”