Brendan Rodgers denies Liverpool dressing room is in turmoil, claiming reports are 'totally untrue'

Exit from the Champions League has been coupled with worrying league form

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The Independent Online

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed claims of dressing-room unrest as "totally untrue".

However, there appeared to be more to read into what the Northern Irishman did not say rather than what he did as he twice declined the opportunity to publicly back striker Mario Balotelli over criticism he has upset the equilibrium within the Reds' squad.

Former Liverpool midfielder Paul Ince called for Rodgers to sell the Italian as he believes he is a disruptive influence and is partly responsible for the lack of team spirit.

"There are lots of opinions about Liverpool and Paul is someone who I respect and was a wonderful player and has managed himself so he knows the pressures of management," said Rodgers.

"Mario is here as a Liverpool player and as the coach and manager I need to work to maximise what I can get out of the player, but that is the same with every single player.

"While he is here at the club that is all I will concentrate on.

"I hear one or two bits and pieces about unrest - it is totally untrue of course. We are not happy we are not winning games.

"These are competitive players who nearly won the league last year so they won't be happy with losing, but the actual spirit in the group is very strong and that is one of the reasons why when we get that confidence back then we will go into the second half of the season and be much better.

"Our dressing room is very strong. We are very fortunate we have a captain (Steven Gerrard) who is a strong leader and that has been something which has been very important in my time here."

Balotelli's start to life at Anfield has been poor with just two goals, neither of which have come in the Premier League.

He came off the bench in Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Manchester United after more than a month out with a groin injury but that problem may prevent him being involved in what has become an increasingly crucial Capital One Cup quarter-final at Sky Bet Championship leaders Bournemouth on Wednesday.

 

Rodgers admitted signing the 24-year-old late in August was a gamble but, after such a lacklustre first half of the season, it seems unlikely he will even be able to offload him in January.

Former club Inter Milan appear to have ruled out a move after club vice-president Javier Zanetti told Sky Italia: "A Balotelli return? We all know Mario is a great player but I think it's difficult because he only just arrived at Liverpool."

Bournemouth, who scored five against Cardiff at the weekend, have not lost a match since September and Rodgers could not have envisaged the significance of such a game when the season began with him looking for a top-four place and playing in the Champions League.

"We wanted to have a right go at all of the cup competitions this year and the game on Wednesday will be an opportunity for us to get into the semi-final," he added,

"It would obviously give us confidence to get through and then go into a two-legged semi-final.

"We're in competitions to win trophies, so if we can get the victory against Bournemouth and get through, the aim for us would be to hopefully go on and win the competition.

"This is the first cup competition that you can win, so it was always a priority for me.

"Of course, we've got a big game at the weekend (against Arsenal) on top of that but the idea is to go into the game tomorrow night to win and I'll pick the team that I think can win the game."

PA

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