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Mario Balotelli Omitted from Italy Squad

Liverpool won't have to worry about Daniel Sturridge or Mario Balotelli during the international break after the Italian international was omitted by Antonio Conte once again.

Clive Brunskill

Mario Balotelli needs a break and it is hoped that he will get one before Liverpool travel to face QPR in two weeks' time. Liverpool's £16 million man wasn't called up at the last international break and will not feature in Italy's latest squad. He'll probably need to score a few goals to gain the attention and affection of Italy's new manager in the coming months. In Liverpool's victory against West Bromwich Albion, Balotelli started the game on the bench for the first time since starting for his new club in August. Rickie Lambert didn't do much to threaten Balotelli's place in the immediate future, but with unwarranted criticism circling the Italian, this omission may not be the best news.

Still, he probably wouldn't expect to have been named in the squad considering his slow integration into the Liverpool side and will surely return once his performances improve along with a healthy serving of goals. Graziano Pellè's impressive start to life with Southampton has earned him a first-ever stint with the Azzurri squad and joins the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Ciro Immobile in the forward line. 23-year-old Simone Zaza hasn't done too much to warrant a place over Mario Balotelli in terms of goal scored (one in four league games) for Sassuolo, but Conte will probably want to look at as many new players as possible early on. Sebastian Giovinco has hardly played, while Immobile has admitted that he has found adapting to the Bundesliga quite difficult but has shown his quality in the Champions League. Dani Osvaldo has been scoring and creating goals under Walter Mazzarri to merit his place, but the competition isn't particularly strong especially with Giuseppe Rossi out with injury.

It is one thing to point out areas where a player can improve or is unsuited to a team, it is another to condemn everything and anything about a player. It's unfortunate that Mario Balotelli has been targeted unfairly, and it is possible that Antonio Conte has bought into this notion of "Balotelli the problem" early into his tenure as Italy manager. From a tweet that some claim invited the racist abuse the 24-year-old received to the flagrant inconsistency of critics when judging Rickie Lambert's effort in comparison to Balotelli's, the guy needs a break. When pundits converge to slaughter him in the studio before a midweek Champions League game, ignoring positive aspects such as his tracking back and his calm temperament in the face of rough treatment, they serve to build unnecessary negativity surrounding the player. Does it translate back home in Italy? Perhaps. He is seen as spoilt in Italy without any consideration of the racism and celebrity nonsense that surrounds him.

Italy should have no trouble against Azerbaijan and Malta in Italy's two Euro 2016 qualifying matches this break, but the management would do well not to underestimate a talent in an area where quality is in short supply. Liverpool should be able to renew the fusion of Sturridge and Balotelli to form Sturritelli against QPR. Hopefully, the international break will be the start of better days for both Liverpool and Mario Balotelli.

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