Friday 18 January 2019

Lambert set to make full Reds debut against Boro

Striker Rickie Lambert is set to make his first competitive Liverpool start in tonight's Capital One Cup third-round clash with Middlesbrough at Anfield.

Jordan Henderson will be assessed after picking up a hip injury, while fellow midfielder Philippe Coutinho is highly unlikely to feature due to a groin problem.

Manager Brendan Rodgers - currently without the likes of Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Emre Can, Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge and with Saturday's derby clash with Everton to think about - has indicated some young players may be brought into a changed matchday squad.

Meanwhile, Rodgers has stressed he is enjoying working with Mario Balotelli.

The Reds recruited maverick Italy striker Balotelli from AC Milan last month and the former Manchester City player opened his scoring account for his new club in their 2-1 Champions League victory over Ludogorets on Tuesday.

Then on Sunday he was the victim of racial abuse on Twitter after he reacted to Manchester United's shock defeat to Leicester by tweeting: "Man Utd...LOL''.

Merseyside Police have since confirmed they are looking into the matter, and Liverpool on Monday emphasised that, with that being the case, neither they nor Rodgers would be making any comment on it at his press conference to preview tonight's clash with Middlesbrough.

But the manager did say about Balotelli: "Every player is different and individual, and I have really enjoyed working with him so far.

"He is a good guy, he wants to do well for the club and he has shown me that he cares enough about the club (for me) to devote that time to him.

"For me, he is not complicated - he is a football player who wants to do well in his life and his career, and if he continues to give everything and work tirelessly for the cause, then there will always be an opportunity here for him."

While Balotelli was among a host of players brought in by Liverpool over the summer, the club lost the services of their 2013-14 top scorer Luis Suarez. And the Reds have made a disappointing start to this season, with Saturday's 3-1 loss at West Ham the third defeat from their opening five Premier League games.

Rodgers said: "There is a natural transition in the group, and where there is that transition, there are little bumps along the way."

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