Brendan Rodgers Delivers Mario Balotelli Fitness Update Ahead of Tottenham Trip

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  Mario Balotelli of Liverpool looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on August 25, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers has confirmed Mario Balotelli is in line to make his Liverpool debut during Sunday's match with Tottenham.

The Northern Irish boss' update was tweeted by the club's official Twitter account early on Wednesday morning:

James Carroll of Liverpool's website also posted lengthier quotes from Rodgers:

I think by the weekend (Balotelli will be ready to feature). He's been into pre-season and he's played three 45-minute games. He might not be up to full match speed, but he's looking fit. 

We've done some analysis on him. The medical and sports science team have worked with him already and he's in very, very good condition. He's in to work and he'll be available for the squad for the weekend.

While this doesn't confirm whether Balotelli will start or come off the bench, Reds fans will be pleased to see the former AC Milan striker brought into contention at the first possible opportunity. Liverpool lacked incision and attacking power during their 3-1 loss to Manchester City, something Balotelli can provide from the off.

It is likely the Italian will be planted right in the centre of Liverpool's attack when he does make it onto the field. Daniel Sturridge could be pushed wide, or given a free role, to ensure the energy doesn't drop and that Balotelli is provided with plenty of service inside the box.

Raheem Sterling will also be key to ensuring the new man isn't left isolated, while Lazar Markovic's work rate could be utilised if Balotelli is brought on as a lone striker in place of Sturridge. Rodgers has certainly given himself plenty of options with the acquisition, especially when Rickie Lambert is looking to make an impression after narrowly failing to score against City.

Balotelli's questionable history, much of which was established during his time with the Etihad club, doesn't overlook controversy against Spurs. In 2012, former manager Harry Redknapp suggested Balotelli should have been sent off for kicking Scott Parker "straight in the head." A few months prior, Balotelli was sent off against Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool after receiving two yellow cards in front of the Kop.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 27:  Mario Balotelli #45 of AC Milan handles the ball against Jack Rodwell #17 of Manchester City during International Champions Cup 2014 at Heinz Field on July 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty I
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

He is an impact player—for better or for worse—there's no doubt about it. Balotelli scored 14 in 30 Serie A appearances for Milan last season, per His best haul in the Premier League currently stands at 13 goals in 14 starts and nine substitute appearances during 2011-12, something Rodgers will hope he can improve at Anfield.

Since 09-10, Balotelli has also racked up 48 bookings and five red cards in domestic-league play, Europe and internationals. Rodgers has already joked the player will bring "trouble" to Merseyside, per Dominic King of the Daily Mail, but this throwaway quip is built on solid foundations. Aside from his on-pitch misbehaviour, Balotelli's shenanigans off the field also need to be quelled.

Football writer Nick Miller isn't convinced Rodgers has total confidence in the player:

It would be typical Balotelli to make a goalscoring impact during his debut. He is the type of player who hushes his critics with a telling strike, before doing something regrettable a couple of games down the line.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Mario Balotelli of Manchester City is shown a red card by Referee Martin Atkinson during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on November 27, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Ph
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Rodgers will be pleased to have captured a proven Premier League goalscorer, however, even if it is someone whose full potential has only ever shown in snippets during his career.

Balotelli's performance during City's 6-1 Manchester derby win, plus his famous display against Germany at Euro 2012, rank up their with his best. Rodgers will be optimistic of helping the player reach this level on a more consistent basis, and without the nonsense in-between.