Liverpool must drop Mario Balotelli because they cannot afford any "passengers" when they host Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, says former Anfield defender Jamie Carragher.
Italy striker Balotelli has scored only once in nine appearances since signing from AC Milan for £16m and has often cut a frustrated figure during a series of low-key displays.
His abject performance in a 3-2 win at the Premier League's bottom club Queens Park Rangers on Sunday proved to Carragher that he should not play when Liverpool face the European champions in Group B.
"He doesn't run around enough," Carragher, who made over 700 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool, told Sky Sports television.
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"Against Real Madrid you've got to get that crowd going. You need to get back to the Liverpool of last year and that pressing. There's got to be an energy about Liverpool that we haven't seen; we've seen it once this season at Spurs.
"It's going on too long now and we can't keep waiting. It's a huge game and Liverpool have to get something from it. They can't have any passengers against Real Madrid."
QPR 2 Liverpool 3 player ratings
QPR 2 Liverpool 3 player ratings
1/22 QPR: Alex McCarthy
Did a solid job deputising for Rob Green – little he could do about any of Liverpool’s goals. 6/10
2/22 Nedum Onuoha
Hardly tested during the first half before going off with an injury. 6
3/22 Richard Dunne
At fault for the Reds’ opener – didn’t adjust his feet quickly enough and turned Sterling’s effort into his own goal. 5
4/22 Steven Caulker
Scored the match-winning goal… at the wrong end. Unfortunate, having worked hard to keep his side in touch as Liverpool threatened to run away with the game having gone 1-0 up. 5
5/22 Yun Suk-Young
Solid performance apart from losing concentration for Liverpool’s opener – defended capably and provided width down the left as QPR dominated the first half – should keep his starting place. 6
6/22 Mauricio Isla
A real threat down the right in the first half, forced to move backwards by Onuoha’s withdrawal at half-time. 6
7/22 Karl Henry
Bullish performance in the centre of midfield. Bullied his more illustrious opponents at times. 7
Influential for 60 minutes before going off injured – his departure coincided with Liverpool taking control of the game. 7
9/22 Leroy Fer
Should have given his side the lead in the first half as he twice hit the bar with great chances – aside from that played well. 6
10/22 Bobby Zamora
The captain’s physicality was a threat to the Liverpool defence right from the opening moment – laid on chances for Austin and Fer that should have been taken. 8
11/22 Charlie Austin
A threat to the Liverpool defence throughout, could have got himself on the score sheet, but did well to set up Vargas’ first. 7
12/22 Liverpool: Simon Mignolet
Another shaky performance – made some good saves but looked extremely vulnerable at times. 5/10
13/22 Glen Johnson
Looked a little rusty on his return to the starting XI from injury – helped prevent a goal with some last ditch defending in the first half and crossed for Dunne’s own goal. 6
14/22 Martin Skrtel
The enforcer of Liverpool’s back four was completely bullied by Zamora and can count himself fortunate (or unfortunate) if he keeps his starting place against Real Madrid on Wednesday. 5
15/22 Dejan Lovren
Unable to handle the inspired Zamora until he went off – unconvincing. 5
16/22 Jose Enrique
Caused a lot of trouble by Isla in the first half – unable to impact the game going forward. 5
17/22 Jordan Henderson
One of few Liverpool players who could be reasonably satisfied with his performance. His mixture of effort and quality helped to keep the Reds in the game as they struggled in the first half. 7
18/22 Emre Can
Making his first Premier League start, the German U21 international failed to stamp his authority on the game and was replaced by Joe Allen soon after the hour mark. 5
19/22 Raheem Sterling
It wasn’t his finest game, but his decisive impact speaks for itself. Played a part in all of Liverpool’s goals and can now looking forward to taking on Real Madrid on Wednesday. 7
20/22 Steven Gerrard
Pushed into a more advanced role in the first half, he was anonymous until almost giving his side the lead just before the break – a bit better when dropping deeper in the second half. 5
21/22 Adam Lallana
Gradually working his way back to full fitness, the England man struggled to get involved during the first half but his shot did lead to Balotelli’s big chance. Went off soon after the hour mark. 5
22/22 Mario Balotelli
He didn’t deserve to be on the winning side. Spurned two great opportunities and generally didn’t look after possession very well. 4
Liverpool are yet to recreate the sparkling form that saw them finish second in the Premier League last season and are currently third in their group having suffered a shock defeat against Swiss champions FC Basel earlier this month.
In contrast, 10-times European champions Real have won five consecutive league matches and Carragher expects the Spanish visitors to see a lot of the ball.
The former defender, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, says manager Brendan Rodgers must play fleet-footed Raheem Sterling in favour of Balotelli to ensure the hosts stretch the game.
"I would put Raheem Sterling in there because he can run in behind and Liverpool may have to counter-attack a lot of the game. Madrid may have a lot of the ball," he said.
"Sterling can also press from the front. He doesn't have to play right up front and he can come back and help the midfield.
"I think they can [get something from the game], but it's how Brendan Rodgers sets up. You've got to get Anfield bouncing. There's got to be an energy and intensity about Liverpool."
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