Steve Bruce has warned his injury-hit Hull City squad to beware of under-fire Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli at Anfield on Saturday.
Balotelli, who joined Liverpool from Milan in August for £16million, has come in for criticism for his below-par performances for Brendan Rodgers' men and scored one goal in 10 games in all competitions
The Italy international striker's decision to swap shirts with Real Madrid defender Pepe at half-time during Wednesday's UEFA Champions League tie has attracted further unwanted attention, with the English media suggesting that Balotelli could be sold in January.
However, Bruce knows that his defence will need to be at their best in order to prevent the former Manchester City and Inter man from answering his critics against the Yorkshire club.
"It was a bit unfair on the lad [Balotelli]," Bruce said.
"There's always one who people pick on. I thought he did okay in the [Real] game. A lot's been made of changing shirts but it's nothing new.
"The fella is a good player. If you play for Liverpool, you're a good player. We'll have to be wary of him.
"He's the whipping boy at the moment - there's always a scapegoat and he seems to be the one at the moment."
Hull's task of achieving a first away win over Liverpool has been made more difficult by injuries to midfielder Tom Huddlestone and defender Andy Robertson, both of whom could miss the Anfield clash along with Nikica Jelavic, Michael Dawson and Steve Harper, who are all unavailable.
"Tom Huddlestone and Andy Robertson are a concern," Bruce added.
"It's typical. We've been riding along nicely and all of a sudden we've got four or five [injuries].
"It's inevitable. We simply have to cope with it and hope the squad's big enough and strong enough."comments