Daniel Sturridge is hoping to form a successful partnership with Mario Balotelli after the Italian scored just his second Liverpool goal against Swansea on Tuesday night.
Balotelli helped his side secure a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory in the Capital One Cup fourth-round tie at Anfield, notching their equaliser in the 86th minute – only seven minutes after his introduction as a substitute.
The goal will ease some of the pressure on the striker who had come under scrutiny after scoring just once in his first 11 games for the club since a £16million summer switch from AC Milan. And Sturridge, who has not featured since September due to a calf injury but is nearing a return, cannot wait to work in tandem with his team-mate.
“We get on well off the field and in the changing rooms,” he told talkSPORT. “We’re always laughing and joking.
“It’s not hugely important to be friends to have a great (football) relationship with somebody, and if you’re not friends you can still have a great partnership, but you can also be friends and have a great partnership.
“Once I get back fit I’m hoping we can strike up a partnership.
“Last season with Luis (Suarez) we had a great relationship up front and scored a lot of goals. Hopefully this season it will be the same.”
Balotelli developed a reputation as a larger than life character during his two-and-a-half year spell with Manchester City but Sturridge insists he is “misunderstood” and launched a robust defence of the 24-year-old.
“Mario has been under the microscope,” he added. “That will always be the case when you play for a big club. You are going to have a lot of eyes on you.
“Mario’s a great guy, and he’s misunderstood sometimes. A lot of people are harsh on him. I get on really with him though. I have nothing but good words to say about him.
“He’s working hard on the training field. People have told me he’s working tirelessly to play the way we play.
“It’s difficult moving to a new club and having new team-mates, it doesn’t (always) just click straight away.
“Everybody is helping him and he’s playing well. Sometimes you don’t get the breaks in terms of scoring goals. Every striker goes through times when they don’t score.
“A lot of stories have been put out about him in the past which aren’t true. For him, it’s difficult to shake off the celebrity (tag).
“He’s a likeable person. I don’t have any bad words to say about him. People don’t realise what he’s been through in his life to get where he is today.”