Gerrard hopes for prolific Balotelli

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is disinterested in suggestions Mario Balotelli is "crazy", he just wants to see the striker perform.

Gerrard leads his team against Ludogorets on Tuesday as Liverpool make their UEFA Champions League return.

Without Luis Suarez, Brendan Rodgers' men have made an indifferent start to the season as they wait for their new signings to settle in.

One of those signings – Balotelli – is searching for his first Liverpool goal and Gerrard said the squad were behind the enigmatic Italian.

"If we get the best out of him, we have got him. If people want to write stories about him and say that he is crazy or he is a nutter, let them, but he is one of us now," Gerrard told The Daily Mail.

"We have welcomed him into this clubs with open arms and we want to help him succeed. Everyone is hoping he is going to be a hit.

"He has got a great set of team-mates who will work for him and back him. He has got to do the same for us."

Gerrard said there had been a "big jealousy" during Liverpool's time out of the Champions League as they prepare for their first match in the competition since 2009.

The 34-year-old said there were big expectations within Rodgers' squad.

"I've got a lot of confidence in Brendan and in the squad," Gerrard said.

"Listen, I'll put it another way. If we go out in the group stages, or the last 16, we will be majorly, majorly disappointed. We want to progress. We want to go as far as we can. This can't be a one-off. This can't be, 'Isn't it great where we are?

"This isn't a reward for finishing second last year. I don't see it as a reward. This is where Liverpool should be — and should be consistently.

"It's the responsibility of myself and the players to give it our best crack. It is important that we have got the Champions League next year as well."