Liverpool’s disastrous start to the season has led to all manner of attempts to locate someone to blame for their misfortune, and two men are currently leading the race.
Mario Balotelli, the standout acquisition of the Reds’ busy summer, has been awful since his return to England, scoring just twice in 15 appearances.
Meanwhile, his manager Brendan Rodgers has already managed to erase almost all the goodwill garnered by Liverpool’s fantastic 2013/14 season.
Poor results, questionable tactical choices and frequently uncomfortable press conferences all combine to ensure the pressure remains fierce on the Northern Irishman.
The Reds’ next match is a tricky trip to Championship leaders Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup, with the visitors 1/1 to beat the in-form Cherries.
The hosts are 11/4 to beat their illustrious visitors, a worthy bet considering Liverpool’s poor recent form – the Reds have won just two of their past 10 matches.
Balotelli is out injured for the match, and in a way being sidelined is likely to help the underfire Italian escape the brutal spotlight currently fixed in place above Anfield.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and considering Daniel Sturridge is also out, Liverpool’s only backup options are the jaded Rickie Lambert and Raheem Sterling, who was uncomfortable in a striker role against Manchester United, missing three clear chances.
Balotelli has only played 45 minutes of football since the eighth of November, time that might have allowed him to settle at the club.
Criticism is still frequently levelled at the 24-year-old, but the club is likely to stick with their £16m investment at least until he has a chance to play more with Sturridge, as the pair have only started one game together – the 3-0 win at Spurs.
Meanwhile, there is no such respite available to Rodgers, who is perhaps just one more bad result and a dodgy post-match interview away from the exit door.
Balotelli is 6/4 to outlast Rodgers at Liverpool, with the Reds’ manager 1/2 to remain at Anfield longer than the Italian striker.