Preview: Liverpool vs. Hull City

Sports Mole previews Liverpool's Premier League visit of Hull City as Brendan Rodgers seeks to find answers to his Mario Balotelli and defensive dilemmas.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has several problems to ponder ahead of the Premier League visit of Hull City on Saturday - their third game in six days.

The Reds spent over £100m in the summer to ensure that their squad was deep enough to cope with such a schedule, but holes are already starting to appear.

Rodgers's most pressing concerns are in each penalty box, with Liverpool's defence proving as inept at keeping the ball out as £16m striker Mario Balotelli is at putting it in.

Their backline, which has kept only one clean sheet in 12 games and proved particularly susceptible from set piece, was run ragged by Real Madrid's star-studded forward line in a 3-0 Champions League defeat on Wednesday, but was also exposed against lesser opposition - Queens Park Rangers - last weekend.

Some late drama and good fortune saw the Merseysiders prevail 3-2 at Loftus Road, despite Balotelli, who is still yet to open his Premier League account for the club, missing an open goal in the second half.

Former Anfield heroes such as Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness have already written off the Italian's Liverpool career and admitted that he was foolish to engage in a half-time shirt swap with Madrid defender Pepe.

Rodgers has vowed to "deal with" that incident, but has insisted that Balotelli is "trying very, very hard" and has little choice but to stick with him, with Daniel Sturridge injured and Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini seemingly reluctant options, having not even featured when Balotelli was hooked after 45 minutes against Real.

The man who replaced him, Adam Lallana, may be recalled to the starting XI for the visit of Hull, with Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can and Joe Allen also competing for places in a five-man midfield.

With Mamadou Sakho and Jon Flanagan defensive absentees, Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren will likely keep their places at centre-back as fifth-placed Liverpool go in search of a third straight top-flight win.

The Tigers, who are three points behind the Reds in 11th, are without Nikica Jelavic, Michael Dawson and Steve Harper, who were all casualties of the 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last weekend.

Jelavic and Dawson could miss as much as six weeks of action with knee and ankle ligament problems respectively, while Harper has joined fellow goalkeeper Allan McGregor on the sidelines with an arm injury.

Third-choice stopper Eldin Jakupovic will deputise, while Steve Bruce could recall son Alex Bruce in place of Dawson. Mohamed Diame, who has four goals in five games, and Hatem Ben Arfa will lend support to lone frontman Abel Hernandez.

Hull have never won on 11 previous trips to Anfield and were beaten 2-0 there last season.

Recent form

Liverpool: LWWLDD


Possible starting lineups

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson; Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling; Balotelli

Hull: Jakupovic; Bruce, Chester, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Diame, Robertson; Hernandez

Sports Mole says: 2-1

Who will win Saturday's match between Liverpool and Hull at Anfield?

Nikica Jelavic of Hull City celebrates after scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Stoke City at the KC Stadium on August 24, 2014
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