Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Mario Balotelli's latest indiscretion will not affect his future at Anfield despite the Football Association opening an investigation into anti-Semitic and racist Instagram images posted by the Italian international.
Balotelli faces a minimum five-game ban if the FA find the player has breached its regulations and casts another cloud over the 24-year-old striker's career on Merseyside, which has struggled to catch alight.
The episode has sparked further reports that Liverpool could cut their losses over Balotelli and offload the player during the upcoming January transfer window but Rodgers has said the forward remains an important part of his plans.
"He is injured [with a groin problem for the visit of Sunderland] at the moment but he's still very much a Liverpool player and there is not much more to add than that," he told a pre-match press conference.
"He's not fit at the moment and my concentration is on those fit and available, so it's my only thinking at the moment. Hopefully he'll be available soon."
Mamadou Sakho and Jon Flanagan are the other first-team players on the Liverpool treatment table but both Jose Enrique and Philippe Coutinho are expected to return this weekend after respective knee problems.
Enrique missed the trip to Leicester City but is likely to be recalled for the visit of Sunderland while Coutinho was an unused substitute at the King Power Stadium but both players are in contention to shake off their recent fitness troubles in time for the weekend clash.
"Coutinho had a slight issue with his knee but should be OK for Saturday. Enrique has trained and should be OK," Rodgers added.
Though Rodgers has stated he has no plans to improve on his squad in the January window, rumours are abound regarding a series of players leaving Liverpool.
Among them is Lucas Leiva, who has only started twice in the Premier League this season and whose agent, Henrique Coelho, claimed could be reunited with former Reds boss Rafael Benitez at Napoli next month.
But Rodgers stated: "We never had any offers for Lucas. He was always an important member of the squad. He in good form at the moment and long may it continue."