Premier League | Anfield | Sat 25 Oct | 3pm
Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli. Shirts. Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli. Mario Balotelli.
- Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid (CL)
- QPR 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 2-1 WBA (Prem)
- Basel 1-0 Liverpool (CL)
- Liverpool 1-1 Everton (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-2 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Hull 2-4 Man City (Prem)
- WBA 3-2 Hull (LC)
- Newcastle 2-2 Hull (Prem)
Shirt swapping is sick and wrong. Every one knows it. eBay? Total thievery. Charity shops? Scum. In fact, the only thing worse than swapping shirts with someone is doing it when the job’s only half done. Mario Balotelli is the ornery root of all evil. Fact.
Or is he? When you sign Balotelli, you know exactly what you’re going to get. Dynamic off-the-ball movement won’t be near any such list.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Brendan Rodgers that his Italian forward has thus far failed at Anfield. It’s difficult to see where Liverpool’s strengths and Balotelli’s marry.
He’s soon become the scapegoat, culminating with the half-time shirt swap with Pepe, to be “dealt with internally”. Ask yourself, if Steven Gerrard and Cristiano Ronaldo had exchanged sweaty garments, would the same fuss have been made?
Balotelli, as always, is the easy fall guy. Maybe fingers should be pointed at the people who decided he was a better fit than Loic Remy or Wilfried Bony?
Things must change for Liverpool, and soon. The QPR win was fortunate beyond belief, the lack of energy throughout the team of huge worry against a Hull side that could cause them real problems.
Steve Bruce has reverted to a back three to accommodate Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and new signing Mohamed Diame. The Senegalese in particular has been revitalised since his move from West Ham, scoring four in five appearances from his favoured central position.
Throw in equally impressive frontman Abel Hernandez, and the Tigers have all the tools available to inflict yet more misery on Anfield after that Real Madrid mauling.
Daniel Sturridge’s latest injury does the Reds no favours in the striking department to ease the Balotelli problem. Mamadou Sakho remains unfit with a thigh strain (or a falling out with Rodgers, depending on what you want to believe). Jon Flanagan and Suso remain longer-term absentees.
Michael Dawson, Steve Harper and Nikica Jelavic are all out for Hull after various injuries suffered against Arsenal, while Huddlestone and Andrew Robertson are "a concern" and could miss the Anfield clash. Allan McGregor’s shoulder injury keeps him out, so Eldin Jakupovic will remain in goal. Robert Snodgrass is injured for so long one wonders whether he would make a sound if he were to fall over at home.
Key battle: Dejan Lovren vs Abel Hernandez
It’s no secret that Liverpool’s defensive malaise is no short-term problem. Even during last season’s title tilt, they struggled for consistency but were bailed out by Sturridge and Luis Suarez. This summer they also sold Daniel Agger, their best defender.
At £20 million, the Croatian Lovren didn’t come cheap. Signed to be Rodgers’ leader at the back, the errors that marked his early career have returned. Hernandez, though largely ineffective against Arsenal, has the scent of goal about him. Give him a chance, the Uruguayan will take it. Lovren had better watch out.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Liverpool 2-0 Hull (PL, Jan 14)
- Hull 3-1 Liverpool (PL, Dec 13)
- Hull 0-0 Liverpool (PL, May 10)
- Liverpool 6-1 Hull (PL, Sep 09)
- Hull 1-3 Liverpool (PL, Apr 09)
At what point does Rodgers start to come under pressure, despite last season’s brilliance? The signings aren’t working, the excuses are in full flow and the football isn’t exactly good to watch. He hasn’t even had chance to say how “proud” he is of his players. Fresh from being snapped on the Tube on the way to Sam Allardyce’s 60th birthday party last weekend, Bruce has turned Hull’s mediocre early form around. Roles reversed at Anfield, then.
Facts and figures
- Liverpool have scored 10 goals in 3 Premier League home games against Hull.
- Hull (along with Chelsea and Everton) are one of only 3 teams to score in every league game this season.
- Hull’s last 2 away games have ended 2-2. Only 2 teams in Premier League history have recorded 3 successive 2-2s away from home (Man United in 1994 and Newcastle in 2003).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
More Liverpool misery. 1-2.
Back 1-2 at 20/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication