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Balotelli can be the difference in title tilt, says Gerrard

ESPN staff
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Mario Balotelli impressed on his Liverpool debut and had Brendan Rodgers smiling © Getty Images
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Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard hailed the impact of new signing Mario Balotelli and says the striker could prove the difference as to whether the club challenges for the Premier League title or not.

Balotelli impressed on his debut for Brendan Rodgers' side as they cruised to a 3-0 victory at Tottenham on Sunday. Gerrard acknowledged the Italian's efforts and, having scored the second from the penalty spot, the Liverpool captain admitted he was aware of Balotelli's deadliness from 12 yards.

Sterling's David Brent moment

  • Raheem Sterling may have scored Liverpool's opener at Tottenham, but the attacker was guilty of a horrendous miss when his side were 3-0 up at White Hart Lane.
  • Sterling waltzed the ball around the Tottenham defence but could only duff a tame effort into the hands of Hugo Lloris - which prompted a comedic response from manager Brendan Rodgers.
  • "Sterling was exceptional today. But I had to laugh when he almost scored the fourth. He dribbled through the Spurs defence like Ricky Villa, but his finish was more like Ricky Gervais," Rodgers told BBC Sport.

Gerrard told Sky Sports: "Everyone had eyes on him and credit to him I thought he was terrific for an hour. He could be the difference regarding whether we can compete or not.

"He has been terrific since he came in. He works hard and he will only improve with a manger like Brendan Rodgers. I am aware he is a terrific penalty taker, I am sure he will get the chances over the season. The more good penalty takers we have the better, especially for cup competitions.

"The challenge for this team for this season is to defend better and I am sure the manager will be buzzing with the clean sheet. Tottenham are a fantastic side, we got their tails up and we did well today."

Balotelli joined Liverpool from AC Milan for £16 million last week and recently admitted that leaving England for his native Italy was a "mistake."

Brendan Rodgers jokingly said the 24-year-old will bring "trouble" to the Liverpool camp but warned his latest recruit that he will not always be star of the show - and that it could be his last chance at a major club.

However, the Northern Irishman was equally as impressed with Balotelli's showing as his captain and told BBC Sport: "I thought he was excellent. He's bought straight into our team ethic. He's trained well and has put all that background noise about him to one side.

"He's been brilliant. You've seen his appetite today, his work, pressure, strength and quality. He has a wonderful touch for a big guy."

Balotelli was brought in to replace Luis Suarez, whose 31 goals - combined with strike partner Daniel Sturridge's impressive haul of 21 strikes - saw Liverpool push Manchester City all the way for the Premier League crown last season.

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