Mario Balotelli Liverpool
All eyes will be on Mario Balotelli when Liverpool take on Hull City in the English Premier LeagueReuters

Mario Balotelli will look to prove his critics wrong when Liverpool host Hull City in the English Premier League on Saturday.

The Italian striker came in for a lot of criticism after his performance in the Champions League match against Real Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday, with the former Manchester City, Inter Milan and AC Milan striker doing himself no favours by swapping shirts with Pepe at halftime.

Balotelli has not made the greatest of starts to life at Liverpool, but with Brenan Rodgers set to keep faith in the mercurial striker, the 24-year-old will have another opportunity to show that he belongs in the English Premier League.

"There's always one who people pick on," Hull City manager Steve Bruce said in support of the under-fire Balotelli. "The fella's a good player. If you play for Liverpool, you're a good player. We'll have to be wary of him.

"He's the whipping boy at the moment -- there's always a scapegoat and he seems to be the one at the moment."

Liverpool need their striker to fire in the goals with regularity, with the Reds struggling to reach last season's heights. The injury to Daniel Sturridge has been a big blow for Brendan Rodgers, leaving the manager will little choice up front.

While Rickie Lambert is waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity from the start, it is clear that Rodgers sees the former Southampton man as a bit-part mainly-as-a-substitute player, leaving Balotelli as the option.

Of course, Rodgers could go without a proper striker up front, much like he did in the second half against Real Madrid, when he hooked Balotelli for Adam Lallana at halftime.

Liverpool certainly played a lot better in the second 45 against the European champions, ensuring Real Madrid would not score any more goals after their three-goal blitz in the first half ended the game as a contest at halftime.

While there are worries on the attacking front, with goals not coming as easy as they did last season, the major worry remains at the back. Shoddy defending allowed Real Madrid to score the second and third goal on Wednesday, and Rodgers knows Liverpool's defence needs to improve.

"It needs to be better, that's for sure -- as a team, not just the defence and goalkeeper," Rodgers said. "As a team we need to be better.

"We all pride ourselves on clean sheets but we need to more competitive and aggressive in those moments as a team.

"That was the disappointment last night and also in the goals we've conceded, as a large number of them have been soft.

"It's our job to improve our record and it's something we'll continue to work on."

Liverpool are fifth with 13 points from eight matches, and Hull City will look to join them on the same number of points with a victory at Anfield. The Tigers nearly took home all three points at the Emirates last weekend, before a late Danny Welbeck goal rescued a point for Arsenal.

Bruce will want a similar performance against Liverpool as well, with Hull making the most of their limited opportunities on the counter-attack at Arsenal.

Hull, though, do have a few injury worries, with Robert Snodgrass, Nikica Jelavic, Michael Dawson and Steve Harper definitely ruled out while Tom Huddlestone and Andrew Robertson are doubts.

"It's typical really because we had been riding along very nicely with no injuries, apart from the unfortunate one with Robert Snodgrass on the first day of the season," said Bruce. "Now all of a sudden we've got four or five out so there could be four or five changes to our side on Saturday.

"It's inevitable that you'll get injuries and suspensions along the way and we have to cope with this, it's as simple as that.

"It's always a blow to lose some of your big players, but we'll get on with it and hope that the squad is big enough and strong enough to cope with it."

Where to Watch Live

The match is set for a 7.30 pm IST (10 am ET, 3 pm BST) start with live coverage on Star Sports 4 and Star Sports HD1. The game can also be watched via live streaming online in India on Star Sports online. There will be no TV coverage in the UK, but audience in the UK can listen to the match via radio on BBC Radio 5 Live or on the website. Catch the action in the US on TV on NBC Sports, while the game can also be Live Streamed online NBC Sports Extra.

Australia viewers can Live Stream the action Fox Sports On Demand, while viewers in Canada can do the same Sportsnet online. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch the match via Live Streaming online courtesy Bein Sports Connect, while South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa viewers can do so via SuperSport online.

Expected lineups: Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Gerrard; Lallana, Sterling, Coutinho; Balotelli.

Hull City: Jakupovic; El Mohamady, Chester, Davies, Bruce, Quinn; Diame, Huddlestone, Livermore; Ben Arfa; Hernandez.

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