Liverpool vs Ludogorets preview - Balotelli backed to fire

Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by PA

Liverpool vs Ludogorets preview - Balotelli backed to fire

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Mario Balotelli will relish the responsibility of being the side's senior striker.

The Italy international, a B£16million signing last month, is now the main man up front in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, who is likely to be out for at least another fortnight with a thigh strain.

As Liverpool make their return to the Champions League after a five-year absence, the 24-year-old finds himself the side's third most experienced player in Europe's elite club competition.

He has failed to sparkle in his first two appearances, which has extended his goalscoring drought to six club games having grabbed 16 in 35 games prior to that for AC Milan.

However, Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets present ideal opposition to get his Liverpool career up and running in front of a home crowd and Rodgers believes Balotelli will embrace the responsibility.

"Time will tell. The boy is only just in the door," he said.

"The best players enjoy that responsibility and I am sure it is one he is relishing but on the training field he is going to work hard to accept that responsibility knowing he has been brought in here to do a job which is to create and score goals and work hard.

"He was unfortunate he was ill last week and it was only on the morning of the game (Saturday's defeat to Aston Villa) he declared himself fit to play, which shows he really wanted to get out and play here.

"He is also experienced as well. He is arguably one of the most experienced players we have in terms of this competition and international calibre and at club level."

Ludogorets had a goalkeeping crisis ahead of the match and had to sign Canadian free agent Milan Borjan on Sunday as Vladislav Stoyanov is suspended and deputy Ivan Cvorovic is out with a long-term injury.

Despite not being included on UEFA's squad list coach Georgi Dermendjiev said he would play on Tuesday as his signing had been ratified by the governing body.

"It was a situation no-one was able to predict and the player has already arrived. He will be able to play. He has signed a contract," he said.

"Nothing was needed because he was a free agent. Everything is confirmed by UEFA, by the book, and he will play.

"We cannot allow some technical mistake at this stage. Ludogorets is a very organised and professional club so there cannot be something like this missed."

Despite being rank outsiders, Dermendjiev said they would not be overawed by their more illustrious opponents.

"There is a saying in football that team plays as much as the opposition allows them," he added.

"Of course, if we need to play defensively we will but we will also use every chance to attack - we have our own attacking style and we plan to use it whenever we can."

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