Mario Balotelli

Brendan Rodgers admits Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli's lack of fitness has seen him struggle this season.

The Italian international arrived at Anfield on a £16m deal from AC Milan in August. Since his move to the Merseyside club, the 24-year-old has scored only one goal in all competitions, which came during their opening Champions League clash against Ludogorets.

The Northern Irishman dropped Balotelli from the starting lineup during their 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion. Rodgers gave another summer signing Rickie Lambert his first league start of the season.

The Liverpool manager says the former Manchester City striker was "fine" with his decision to snub him and start Lambert ahead of him against the Baggies.

"He's still striving for fitness and still striving to get the goals he wants," Rodgers explained.

"Mario took the news very well, there's no issue. He just accepts what the position is. He still has to gain fitness. He has played games and Rickie Lambert is a player who can play games for us. His reaction was fine. He came on and did his best."

Liverpool are without the services of their star striker Daniel Sturridge after he picked up a thigh injury during the international break in September. The England international has returned to full fitness and Rodgers left him out of the squad for the West Brom clash.

The Reds next face Queens Park Rangers after a fortnight and Rodgers has confirmed the former Chelsea man will return for the Premier League clash against the Hoops.

"I was hoping he [Sturridge] would be available but he wasn't. But certainly from now he'll have the course of the international break to get ready and he'll be fine for QPR," the Liverpool manager said.

Sturridge has already been left out of the England squad by Roy Hodgson for the upcoming international fixtures. It should be seen whether Rodgers will play Balotelli alongside Sturridge or if he will go with the latter as a lone striker for the clash against QPR.