Phil Thompson backs Mario Balotelli after difficult start

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Liverpool legend Phil Thompson believes that Mario Balotelli will benefit from the return of Daniel Sturridge and that "you'll see more from him" in reaction to the Italian's slow start at Anfield.

Balotelli joined the Reds for £16 million this summer from AC Milan; however, he has failed to make an impact at the club having scored just one goal in seven appearances.

The former Manchester City striker is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch and during the 1-0 Champions League defeat to FC Basel, he was poor on the ball, not threatening the Swiss Champions' goal and giving it away too easily at times.

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Thompson backs Balotelli

However, Thompson thinks that Balotelli struggles playing up top on his own and will make a big impact when Sturridge returns from injury.

Speaking on Sky Sports News after the game, he said: “He is up front on his own. He did work quite hard last night but it is not quite working.

“The players are all too wide. Sterling and Markovic were wide and no one was alongside him.

“Mario likes things with his back to goal, that is how he works.

“The first game that he played with Daniel Sturridge at Spurs. Sturridge likes to make the runs that Welbeck makes, in behind defenders, that helps Balotelli.

“He likes to flick the ball around. I would get someone to play alongside him. Give Balotelli some help and you’ll see more from Balotelli.”

Must improve

The 24-year-old has to improve on his efforts if he is to make an impression on Merseyside.

Going forward, Balotelli does not offer all that much. Against Basel, too often both Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling looked to find the forward and anticipated him to move into space.

This did not happen and instead Balotelli looked for the ball to be played into his feet.

Liverpool's build up is far too slow this season. Last campaign, they hit sides on the break and played fast football, killing games off within the first half. If you compare performances in the 2013/14 season against Arsenal and Everton at home, it is quite different recently.

Balotelli has to sacrifice what his game for the good of the Reds. He needs to be constantly on the move, offering himself to his team-mates, even if it means he is not in a goal-scoring position.

Sturridge will help

Despite this, Thompson makes a fair argument when fighting 'Super Mario's corner.

When the striker has succeeded at other clubs, he has had a strike partner up front with him. He is a hold up man who wants another forward to make a move off him to quickly link up with.

Sturridge and Balotelli started together in the 3-0 away victory to Tottenham Hotspur. This was by far Liverpool's best performance of the season, as they looked a real threat when on the attack and easily brushed aside the North London club.

The strike pair linked well together, and both had several chances in the game.

With Sturridge's return getting ever closer, it will be interesting if this helps the Italian find his feet on Merseyside. If not, there are no excuses and he could see himself be leap-frogged by Rickie Lambert, who anxiously waits for his call up on the bench.

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