The harmony or lack of it in Liverpool’s squad will fall under the microscope on Sunday when Brendan Rodgers’s side visit Southampton in a clash of Champions League qualification hopefuls.
Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Besiktas in the Europa League on Thursday was overshadowed by an incident in the build-up to the hosts’ late winner when substitute Mario Balotelli snatched the ball from stand-in captain Jordan Henderson before scoring the penalty that settled the game.
Regular captain Steven Gerrard, analysing the first-leg match for ITV as he convalesces following a hamstring injury, said Balotelli’s behaviour had been “disrespectful” to Henderson.
But Henderson and Balotelli downplayed the altercation after the game—the former in a television interview; the latter, inevitably, on social media—and Rodgers said he would make sure the matter was put to bed.
“That is my job to manage that. It is what I do behind the scenes every day,” the Liverpool manager told his pre-match press conference.
“You see from the way the team has been playing recently the respect and commitment they show for each other.
“The only thing I would say on it is I don’t like the etiquette. You don’t like to see four or five players around a football looking to take it.
“It was maybe more the etiquette which was not as we would have liked, but we got the end result.”
While the incident caused Liverpool embarrassment, there is no denying that they have returned to something approaching their best following a run of one defeat in 17 matches.
The burst of form has taken Rodgers’s side to within sight of the Premier League’s Champions League qualifying places, where Southampton currently occupy the fourth and final berth.