CARLO Ancelotti has crystallised the growing debate surrounding Liverpool by turning the focus directly onto Brendan Rodgers' coaching ability.
Rodgers is facing into a potential battering from Real Madrid on their home patch which would end any hope Liverpool have of progressing beyond the group stage of the Champions League and throw a very harsh spotlight on the Liverpool boss.
Responding to questions about Mario Balotelli and his troubled relationship with yet another football club, Ancelotti suggested that the controversial striker is not the man to blame for those looking for a reason for Liverpool's stuttering start to the season.
"Balotelli is spoken of a lot, maybe too much," said Ancelotti. "He has quality and is at a side where they are not playing well.
"They have lost Suarez who scored a lot and they need another solution. But I don't think all of Liverpool's problems are about Balotelli. He needs to do his work for the side, that's all that can be asked of him. The coach needs to find the right system with the new players."
"Mario is working very hard. At this moment in time, he is doing his best. He hasn't got the goals that he would have liked."
Rodgers has also been forced to defend his new signings amid accusations that he has spent over £215m but has very little to show for it.
"It will take time. We all know that time is very hard to come by. At this moment in time, we're not at the level we want to be at.
"We have to forget whining and moaning, and make the most of the make the most of the situation we have. I have the responsibility to get the intensity back in our game."
Rodgers was questioned about Steven Gerrard and made it plain that he wants his captain to stay at Anfield: "A captain and a role model, hopefully he's with us for many years to come."
The decision to bring Daniel Sturridge to Madrid seems to have more to do with squad morale than any real hope he might play.
"It's highly unlikely he'll be fit. I've brought all the players out. It's a sign we're very much together."
The Liverpool boss knows only too well how close an eye he will need to keep on Ronaldo but he pointed out a few more players who might cause trouble for him.
"Ronaldo is probably the best player in the world but Real have many (top players), Isco, Benzema, Modric, Kroos and others.
"We're really looking forward to these big games. We see them as an opportunity. We're still in the hunt in the group.
"They're probably the best team in the world at the moment, but we can challenge them."
Ancelotti has run out of words to describe Ronaldo who needs two goals to beat Raul's all-time Champions League scoring record.
"I have to speak about Cristiano a lot," said Ancelotti. 'The last time I said it's hard to find a new word to describe him. What can I say? He's a fantastic player and professional and that's it.
"He is a team player. He will pass to players in better positions if they have a better chance to score than him.
"We have been on a good run and that helps us. I don't think he's thinking about the record. He has time," the Italian concluded.
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