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The Italy striker has struggled for game time in recent weeks and Reds boss Brendan Rodgers suggested he currently has no part to play in his in-form line-up


Mario Balotelli is happy at Liverpool despite being left out of the squad to face Bolton on Saturday, according to the player’s agent.

Balotelli has struggled for playing time in recent weeks, having not started a match for the Reds since November 8, and manager Brendan Rodgers admitted at the weekend that the striker will have to change his style in order to work his way back into the line-up.

The Reds are unbeaten since the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United on December 14, and Rodgers’ candid declarations suggested the upturn in fortunes is not unrelated to Balotelli’s absence.

But while agent Mino Raiola admits that while his client does not see eye-to-eye with his manager on everything, he is keen to make things work at Anfield.

“Yes, he is happy at Liverpool,” he told Sky Sports. “Nobody is happy to be left out but he reacted in a professional way.

“He was injured and moved to a big club. Mario will win this struggle and become better. It is then up to Brendan Rodgers to give him a chance.

“They’re talking and it is a good relationship. Mario likes him. They do not agree on everything. It is technical reasons they don’t agree on but Mario will strive to give the manager what he wants.

“This move was the right thing to do in his career. He’s still one of the best in the world.”

Raiola also refuted speculation that Balotelli is keen to move elsewhere in the January transfer window, but did hint that the pair will reevaluate the situation at the end of the season.

“We didn’t ask to leave,” he said. “It is too early, with the injury, to say we leave in January. There are no big problems. He’s adapting to a new style that the manager wants. We’ll see in the summer.”

The Blues were beaten by the League One outfit at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and the Portuguese has demanded that his side put that loss behind them in the League Cup semi-final


After being left “embarrassed” by Bradford City, Jose Mourinho has demanded a response as his Chelsea side seek to reach the League Cup final against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Premier League leaders Chelsea were dumped out of the FA Cup by their League One opponents at Stamford Bridge on Saturday after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 in one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s prestigious history.

Speaking in the aftermath of the shock defeat, manager Mourinho stated his players should feel “ashamed” of themselves.

However, the Portuguese has no time to dwell on the setback as Chelsea host Liverpool in their semi-final second leg, with the tie nicely poised at 1-1.

“I always said that I don’t choose competitions [to prioritise] and we go match after match,” he said.

“The most important competition now is the League Cup because it is the next game.

“Obviously the Premier League is in front of the cups but the way we prepare in a serious and a professional way, I can’t say we don’t care about the FA Cup. We lose and we care.”

Mourinho, who led Chelsea to League Cup glory in 2005 and 2007 during his first stint at the club, does not foresee any lasting hangover as several of his first-team regulars were not involved against Bradford.

“The players who were not involved directly in this game – [Nemanja] Matic, [Branislav] Ivanovic, Diego Costa – I don’t think they can be affected by it,” he added.

“We lost at home against a lower division team and in an ideal world it will affect us in a positive not a negative way, like we have to win the next match and let’s go for it.”

Liverpool, who lost the 2005 final to Chelsea, also have a point to prove after being taken to an FA Cup replay in an underwhelming 0-0 draw with Championship club Bolton Wanderers at Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers’ men have been in good form, though, and are on a 10-match unbeaten run.

Indeed, Liverpool will feel unlucky not to be travelling to London with a first-leg advantage after impressing at Anfield, where Raheem Sterling’s second-half strike cancelled out Eden Hazard’s penalty.

And midfielder Joe Allen, who returned from a month-long lay-off after a knee injury against Bolton, is confident the League Cup’s most successful team can pile even more misery on Mourinho’s men.

“Of course we can get a result – we all can’t wait,” Allen told Liverpool’s official website.

“These are the games you want to play in and from the first leg, you can see from the way that we set out and the way that we performed, that we can certainly get through this tie.”

The 25-year-old has been sidelined since Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Tottenham on August 31 with thigh and hamstring injuries, but is back in full training and recovering well


Daniel Sturridge will be monitored ahead of a possible return for Liverpool in Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final second-leg clash with Chelsea, Brendan Rodgers has revealed.

Sturridge scored 21 goals in 29 Premier League appearances last season but has been sidelined since the Reds’ 3-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane on August 31 with thigh and hamstring injuries.

But the 25-year-old is back in training and Rodgers says his star striker could be fit enough to take a place on the bench at Stamford Bridge, though he is more likely to return against West Ham on January 31.

“He’s done all his rehab he’s at a really good level of fitness,” Rodgers told BT Sport.

“He’ll only have a couple of days; we’ll see how he is for Chelsea. He’ll be ready for West Ham – whether he starts or not.”

Goalkeeper Adam Bogdan was in inspirational form as the Wanderers earned an FA Cup replay after holding the home side to a frustrating goalless draw on Saturday evening


Bolton Wanderers put in a battling display at Anfield on Saturday to secure a goalless draw and an FA Cup fourth-round replay with Liverpool.

The Championship outfit, who fielded the veteran strike pairing of Eidur Gudjohnsen and ex-Liverpool man Emile Heskey, proved tireless opponents and made it a frustrating evening for their hosts.

Javier Manquillo passed up the clearest opening for Liverpool, while a lively Raheem Sterling was regularly thwarted by last-ditch challenges from a disciplined Bolton defence – behind which goalkeeper Adam Bogdan excelled.

As he contends with League Cup and Europa League campaigns alongside Premier League commitments, the return game at the Macron Stadium is unwelcome for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, but a preferable fate to the shock defeats endured by fellow heavyweights Manchester City and Chelsea on a memorable day of FA Cup action.

Bolton made a confident start, with Matt Mills seeing an 11th-minute strike blocked before the defender returned to his own penalty area to deny Adam Lallana – making a first Liverpool start since New Year’s Day – with a perfectly timed challenge.

Bogdan extended himself to keep out a sweetly struck 30-yard effort from Jordan Henderson, while Mills was on hand to frustrate Sterling after a lofted ball forward exploited a high Bolton defensive line.

In the 33rd minute, Dean Moxey was inches away from putting the Championship team ahead – his half-volley from the edge of the penalty area whistling narrowly past Simon Mignolet’s right-hand upright.

Like Mills, Tim Ream was enjoying an impressive outing at centre-back for Bolton and the USA international stopped Lallana from bundling home.

Glen Johnson and Lallana then fired rasping strikes into Bogdan’s arms as Liverpool began to find their rhythm during the closing stages of the first half.

Rodgers sent on Lazar Markovic in place of Jose Enrique at half-time and Sterling tore towards the Bolton area within a minute of the restart, but Mills was on hand to block the shot.

Mills was nursing a yellow card for an earlier foul on Sterling and there was an anxious moment for the former Reading man when Markovic went to ground under his challenge. Referee Kevin Friend was unmoved, prompting a furious reaction from Rodgers on the touchline.

Bogdan was out bravely to save at Sterling’s feet when Philippe Coutinho unpicked the Bolton defence with a 53rd-minute throughball and the goalkeeper made another fine stop by getting down to push a Coutinho drive away from the bottom corner.

Moxey stumbled as he looked to deal with the rebound but Liverpool wing-back Manquillo pulled a glorious chance wide.

Youngster Conor Wilkinson was introduced in place of Heskey but Gudjohnsen remained and spurned a pair of chances in quick succession.

The former Chelsea and Barcelona man side-footed wide from Ream’s low cross before more wastefully blazing over on the end of Wilkinson’s 64th-minute cutback.

Manquillo made way for Fabio Borini as Liverpool chased victory and the Italian forward forced Bogdan into another splendid stop with 19 minutes to play.

Borini headed agonisingly wide in stoppage time and Lucas Leiva saw Bogdan beat away a fierce drive as Neil Lennon’s team claimed the replay they craved.


Adam Bogdan was in inspirational form as the Wanderers held the Reds to a goalless draw and earned an FA Cup replay at the Macron Stadium in a couple of weeks time


Bolton held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield to earn an FA Cup replay, largely thanks to goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.

The away side frustrated the Reds throughout and, with their goalkeeper in fine form, held on despite late Liverpool pressure.

More to follow…

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